/ Food & Drink

Bangers and burgers – what are they really made of?

Sausages on a barbecue

We’ve been investigating which meat products offer the best value for money per kilo of meat. But some labelling of products sold on deli counters is at risk – do you want to know exactly what you’re getting?

In the July issue of Which? magazine we’re investigating the true cost of meat products like sausages and burgers.

Apart from brands such as Richmond, Wall’s and Bird’s Eye, we found that the meat content increases the more you paid for a product. Not too surprising really. We also found that there are restrictions about what body parts of the animal can be used and what counts as meat (and the levels of fat and connective tissue this meat can contain).

Sausages - cost per kilo of meat

This will surprise the six in 10 UK adults who thought that manufacturers could use all parts of the animal in meat products.

Do you read the label?

In our new survey, eight in 10 of you told us that you check the ingredients and meat content on labelling. However, proposed government changes could weaken the level of protection offered to consumers. The government in England is proposing to scrap rules around giving the full name of the food and the Qualitative Ingredients Declarations (QUID) on meat products sold loose.

If these changes go ahead meat products sold loose (as in not pre-packed), such as ham for example, wouldn’t have to label the meat content or how much water the product contained. This would apply to meat being sold at the butcher, on a supermarket meat counter, in a deli or farmers’ market, etc.

For example, if there were three similar sausages, you wouldn’t know that one contained 60% meat, another 85% meat and the other 97% meat. So you wouldn’t be able to work out which you would prefer or which offered better value for money.

We oppose decriminalising violations

Currently, non-compliance with the meat and food information regulations is a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of £5000. However, the governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are proposing to decriminalise food-labelling violations.

Which? opposes these proposed changes. They send a message that food fraud and misleading labelling will not be taken seriously and might encourage more unscrupulous  traders to try their luck in making a fast buck.

Do you think the government is doing enough to protect the public from food fraud?

Comments
Guest
Em says:
14 June 2013

Could you please include a reference or link to the “proposed changes”?

There is often a trade-off between the cost and practicality to the food industry of accurate labelling and the need for the consumer to understand exactly what they are eating. If the regulations are too difficult to implement, the label itself may become misleading to the consumer through no fault of the supplier.

If I’m really fixated about exactly what has gone into my processed food, I would rather make it myself from raw ingredients. And, yes, I do sometimes make my own sausages. If I then found out that the pork meat I used had been adulterated with some other animal protein or filler (water, starch, etc.) I did not know about, that is clearly unacceptable.

But if I choose to buy commercially-made sausages, my prima facie expections covered by other laws and regulations are:

i) they will be safe to eat and fit for human consumption,

ii) the general description is not misleading e.g. pork sausages primarily contain pork meat.

Only then do I need to concern myself with whether the label is a representative indication of what I am about to eat, but it is not an exact “recipe” for making those sausages in a factory environment.

So I would be interested to know more about what regulations are being relaxed, and the rationale for decriminalising labelling violations before jumping on the soapbox.

Guest

Hi Em,

The proposed changes to labelling rules were consulted on earlier this year. You can find the details of the consulation here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/food-information-regulations-fir-2013.

We produced separate responses for different parts of the UK – here’s our response for England (PDF): http://www.staticwhich.co.uk/documents/pdf/food-information-regulations-2013—which-response-314826.pdf. We called for plans to decriminalise failure to comply with most food labelling laws to be scrapped.

Guest
Em says:
17 June 2013

Hi Katie,

Thank you very much for your reply and cleaning up my original post.

This is exactly the kind of background material I was hoping for. I am also not clear why you wouldn’t have initially included your response to the consulation document. It shows Which? in a good light and is indicative of the work going on behind the scenes that some members may not be aware of.

There’s a lot to read here. I may or may not have anything to add, but I appreciate the update to my request so that I have an understanding of which piece of legislation this relates to. Thanks again, Em.

Guest

The majority of people in the UK eat enough food to survive and, except for junk food over-eaters, live healthily. It isn’t so much the actual protein content in sausages and burgers most of us worry about, its the taste. I trust our local butcher and his sausages, made on the premices, taste great. We also have a mini-Tesco very close by and I will never eat a sausage from there again even if Tesco offer to pay me. They were cheaper but the saving was wasted on the fox who checks out our garden for food every night. He\she is less fussy.

Guest

I buy my sausages, about once a month, in either the not so local butchers or in Waitrose. I usually prefer a pork sausage with herbs or pork and leek, than plain pork. I have occasionally bought lamb sausages and they are very tasty. If I tried to make my own sausages, it would turn into a scene from ‘I love Lucy’, so I leave it to the professionals.

Guest

I have never bought sausages or burgers because there is so much opportunity to put anything into them. I have given up mince too, since the local butcher closed. I prefer to buy meat that looks like meat. It does not have to be expensive and I don’t eat it every day, so I probably spend less than those who buy sausages and burgers.

Guest

So what is the reason this sham of a government is proposing to scrap rules around giving the full name of the food and the Qualitative Ingredients Declarations (QUID) on meat products sold loose? Business been lobbying them as usual?
Why is it only England?
And why is there a proposal to decriminalise food-labelling violations?
Seems a lot of unanswered questions need answering.
I dont know about anybody else but I’m getting sick of the way this government doesnt do a thing about consumer interests unless a campaign has to be launched or its dragged kicking and screaming through the Euro courts (e.g. mobile charges)
Now we have Camoron blowing the trumpet for GM foods to be grown here.
No and NO again.

Guest
Em says:
15 June 2013

I don’t know about anyone else here, but I’m getting sick of the way everything on Which? Convo gets hijacked by some party political activist. State Pensions and now Pork Sausages. What else can we blame the Government for?

This is not a propaganda site and consumers in the UK are (last time I checked) free to support any MP or politcal party they want to. So do not start blaming the current or any previous government – or a dead Prime Minister – without knowing the facts of the matter first, which clearly most of us do not. That is why I’ve asked for some clarification about what has prompted this Convo.

And before anyone asks, I do not support Convervatives, Labour or any other party. My “vote” counts for absolutely nothing, as I live in a very safe Tory constituency in the South of England. As I’ve be disenfanchised for my entire voting life, frankly it is irrelevant to me and I suspect most people in this country as to who is in power.