The move came after MEPs failed to veto proposals last week that would have prevented the use of lactic acid to reduce microbiolical surface contamination on bovine carcases, a practice which the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ruled as safe last July. The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI) debated objections to the use of lactic acid, but according to the official European Parliament statement, “no agreement was reached either in favour or against the proposal for a regulation”. With no qualified majority, the Commission can now authorise its use.
The European Livestock and Meat Trades Union (UECBV) welcomed the outcome of the debate, saying it hoped the regulation would be adopted by the EU over the next few months.
It noted that lactic acid was likely to be used as an extra tool by meat producers on a voluntary basis, which would reinforce, rather than undermine, the existing hygiene regimes. It had previously argued that this would provide an incentive to FBO to maintain the best levels of hygiene, saying the better the existing hygiene practices, the better the result of anti-microbial treatment of lactic acid.
A statement said: “From the lively debates serving the EU democratic process, the meat entrepreneurs are happy to count on a complementary hygiene tool, allowing them to improve the safety of beef production. Likewise, they take on board the EP’s concerns when it comes to when and how to apply the lactic acid.
“The use of lactic acid would also comply with the EU Regulation on microbiological criteria, which requires the national competent authorities to conduct a systematic audit on the hygiene level of the EU meat establishments. The consumer will be the beneficiary of safer beef.”
The measure has also been welcomed by American meat exporters as it will allow increased import of US beef, which is widely treated with lactic acid, into the EU. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) applied to the European Commission to authorise lactic acid as a decontaminant. Once the regulation is adopted, it will allow the US to fulfil its increased EU import quota for non-hormone-treated beef, which formed the second part of the EU-US 2009 memorandum of understanding on beef trade.
Joe Schuele, communications director of the US Meat Export Federation, said: “Approving the use of lactic acid will enable more US companies to participate in the EU market. How the business develops from that point, however, will depend greatly on the economic environment and overall market situation.
“It is important to note that the decision is not yet final, but we are hopeful that last week’s proceedings clear the way for the Commission to adopt its resolution early next year, approving the use of lactic acid on carcases and quarters in slaughter plants.”