Unmarked: apparently mechanically separated meat in poultry sausage


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Status: 06/23/2022 06:00 a.m

Mechanically separated meat is pressed from animal bodies or coarsely chopped bones with leftover meat and must be labeled as such by the manufacturer. However, laboratory tests for NDR and “Spiegel” provide indications that this is not always the case.

By Johannes Edelhoff and Julian Prahl, NDR

Germany’s largest slaughterhouse, Tönnies, and other sausage producers are suspected of processing mechanically separated meat in poultry sausage products – without labeling this, as required by law. Laboratory tests by the Bremerhaven university professor Stefan Wittke for the “Spiegel” and the NDR concrete evidence.

Mechanically separated meat is produced by machines pressing animal carcasses or coarsely chopped bones with leftover meat through perforated discs. Bone splinters and pieces of cartilage get caught, all soft parts such as muscles, fat and connective tissue or even the spinal cord are squeezed off. This creates a mushy mass. Researcher Wittke has developed a new, peer-reviewed method to detect this ingredient in sausage products. Up until now, this has hardly been possible.

Instructions also for organic sausages

Altogether were enough NDR and “Spiegel” 30 samples of poultry sausage and poultry meat from different manufacturers for examination. Nine of them tested positive – including four organic sausages. Almost every second of the 20 sausage samples was positive. On the other hand, there was no evidence of mechanically separated meat in the examined pieces of meat such as fillets or roasts.

Five of the nine products that tested positive were manufactured by the Böklund-based “Zur Mühlen Gruppe”, which belongs to the Tönnies group of companies. Two products from the East Westphalian manufacturer Franz Wiltmann and one product each from the manufacturers Wiesenhof and Mecklenburger Landpute GmbH were also among the positive cases. These goods were sold under brand names such as Gutfried, Edeka Bio, Rewe Bio or Rewe Beste Wahl. Mechanically separated meat was never specified on the packaging.

Legal consequences possible

The use of mechanically separated poultry meat is not prohibited in Germany, but manufacturers must indicate this on the packaging in accordance with the EU Food Information Regulation. If manufacturers hide this ingredient, those responsible face legal consequences.

“The EU food information regulation is apparently being violated here,” says Berlin lawyer Remo Klinger, an expert in environmental and food law. The persons and companies responsible face a fine of up to 50,000 euros. And: “If the companies do not change their behavior, they act intentionally. This can result in criminal prosecution for fraud with significantly higher fines for the managing directors.”

Mechanically separated meat is traded at market prices of 35 to 50 cents per kilo – and is therefore significantly cheaper than conventionally obtained meat. The incentive for companies to waste this ingredient is correspondingly large. However, it is likely to be unpopular with consumers.

If the allegations are true, Matthias Wolfschmidt from Foodwatch sees a clear case of consumer deception: “The goods would not be marketable with the wrong declaration and should not be offered for sale.”

Companies reject results

The company spokesman for three companies that belong to Tönnies Holding (including Gutfried) write that no mechanically separated meat is used. In addition, the validity of the examination method is doubted: “The markers detected by your laboratory are not direct evidence of mechanically separated meat.” Wiltmann’s company spokeswoman also denies the allegations: “We do not use ‘separated meat’ anywhere in our production. We categorically reject its use for quality reasons.” A spokeswoman for Mecklenburger Landpute GmbH also writes that the company does not use mechanically separated meat.

Wiesenhof reports that Wiesenhof Poultry Mortadella does not contain mechanically separated meat. Wiesenhof also submitted affidavits. In addition, regular checks are carried out based on officially recognized histological examinations and checks of the calcium content. In contrast, the test procedure at Bremerhaven University has so far been nothing more than a new scientific approach. According to Wiesenhof, the supposed mechanically separated meat markers are also found in other meat components, especially in tendons. In addition, the test was only developed for chickens, it is completely unclear whether it can also be applied to turkeys.

But the fact is: All of “Spiegel” and NDR submitted products also include chicken. And according to the study, collagens do occur in tendons – but not the specific protein collagen type II alpha 1, to which the laboratory tests refer.

Control authorities convinced of test procedures

Control authorities are impressed by the new test procedure. “It seems to me to be very future-oriented,” says Matthias Denker, head of the department at the State Office for Food Safety in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: “Not all manufacturers are black sheep, but if we can provide proof, then something like that might disappear very quickly. ” So it could be that consumers will soon actually find out what’s in the sausage they buy.

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