Traditionally smoked meats and fish get 3-year reprieve from EC

Latvia’s meat producers and processors expressed relief at the European Commission’s (EC) ruling Tuesday to postpone putting stringent limits on benzo(a)pyrene levels found in traditionally smoked meats and fish distributed inside the national territory.

The EC had previously planned to lower permissible levels of benzo(a)pyrene in smoked meat and fish products to just 2 micrograms per kilogram starting in September of this year. However yesterday’s ruling in favor of the smoked foods sectors in Latvia, Ireland, Spain, Croatia, Cyprus, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Finland, Sweden and Great Britain keeps the allowed limit at 5 micrograms per kilo. Each of these countries may continue to distribute smoked meat and fish products within their borders, yet will continue to be prohibited from exporting these foods elsewhere. 

Benzo(a)pyrene belongs to a class of compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons given off by the natural process of incomplete combustion, including food preparation methods like smoking and charbroiling. Benzo(a)pyrene is suspected of being a likely cause of cancer in humans thereby exposed to it.

Latvian producers have complained that their products would be sure to lose their unique flavor and appearance if the proposed norms were to enter into effect. The restrictions would likely have forced many small-scale food producers to stop smoking their meats traditionally with firewood and close up shop.

A host of institutions worked together to persuade Europe that Latvia’s traditional meat- and fish-smoking methods should be preserved under less stringent regulations, including the Agriculture Ministry, the Meat Producers’ and Processors’ Association and the public research group Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment – BIOR.

Didzis Šmits of the Latvian Meat Producers’ and Processors’ Association told Latvian Public Television that the sector will work to ensure that traditional methods of smoking meat and fish remain legal here, as well as lobby for the right to distribute these smoked food products beyond Latvia’s borders.

“A law that provides exemptions for almost half of all member-states seems close to discrediting itself,” said Šmits.

On Tuesday he tweeted: “Well, we just sprinted a marathon distance. Our smoked foods are vindicated! The regulation’s been amended! Thanks to the whole team – the Ag Ministry, BIOR, et al.!!!”

The member-states granted these three-year national derogations must continue their monitoring efforts and the development of best-practice processing methods.

 

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