http://www.seafood.com/news/current/96499.html When is food not food? That is the pounds 50 million dilemma facing British retailers as the Government prepares to bring in EU regulations which result in uncooked meat and fish no longer being classed as food.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is planning to recommend a move to Ministers which will mean fresh or frozen meat can no longer be thrown in the bin but must be incinerated to prevent the spread of disease.
Ministers must decide within the next few weeks whether uncooked meats should be classed as food or as animal by-products.
The proposals form part of the EU Animal By-Products regulation, which has also left farmers facing huge costs to dispose of dead livestock which can no longer be buried or burned on farmland.
The rules are being introduced to curtail the spread of the disease and with Britain's record on BSE and foot-and-mouth disease, it is unlikely the Government can refuse to implement the legislation and could be obliged to class uncooked meat as animal waste.
The British Retail Consortium said that by choosing to define all uncooked meat as waste, a retailer who had just one packet of unsold sausages on their premises each week for a year could face an animal waste disposal bill of at least pounds 832.
The bill for Britain's 68,000 food retail businesses will run to at least pounds 50 million a year for disposal either through incineration or rendering, the process which separates meat particles using heat and steam.
Bill Moynes, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said: 'We are shocked by this bizarre move to recommend Ministers adopt an insane definition of what is waste and what is food.
'If the Government decides that meat and fish are not food, it will not only add a huge, unnecessary cost to British food retailers, but will be proof that Defra's bureaucrats have no understanding of the food sector they are meant to oversee.'
John Lamb, spokesman for Birmingham and Solihull Chamber of Commerce, said: 'Quite often these regulations can be very sweeping but everyone has just got to put up with it. High costs are inevitable but I hope these aren't passed on to the consumer.'
As householders are exempt from the proposals, Mr Lamb said it was likely some smaller retailers would end up disposing of unsold goods at home.
Ministers must make the controversial decision before the end of this month, when the EU regulation is due to come into effect. A Defra spokesman said it would be looking at ways to ease the burden on retailers if Ministers press ahead with the plans, following similar attempts to help farmers through a subsidised disposal scheme.
He said butchers would not be affected by the plans as they already have to dispose of produce through incineration or rendering.