FSA: Update on further research into skin on sheep meat (smokies)

In September 2007, the Food Standards Agency advised that it was proposing new research into skin-on sheep meat, known as smokies, a contract has been awarded to the Central Science Laboratory
for a study that will investigate whether residues from medicines used during the sheep’s lifecycle are present in sheep skin, potentially posing a risk to consumers.

It had been anticipated the research would start this April. However, the Agency has now been able to bring the start date forward to 1 February 2008 and it is expected the research will be
completed by 30 April 2009.

The new work will build on published research commissioned by the FSA which found that under controlled conditions, skin-on sheep carcasses could be produced hygienically, as reported in the
journal Meat Science. An abstract of this report can be found at the link below.

The effectiveness of current withdrawal periods of veterinary medicines will be a key element of the new research. Withdrawal periods ensure that any medicine residues in meat from animals are
below a ‘safe’ limit to protect the consumer. A related desk study has looked broadly into this issue but found that current withdrawal periods do not take into account the presence of skin on
sheep-meat.

To address these gaps in knowledge, the new research will aim to practically determine whether certain medicines, including those that control external parasites and flies in sheep and
concentrate in the skin and skin-fat, could pose a risk to consumers. Sheep feet with the skin on that have been scalded and depilated are legally available for human consumption. These items
will be used as the testing product in the new study.

This new research will add to the evidence base required to determine if and how skin-on sheep carcasses can be produced hygienically and safely.

It is too soon to speculate when the Agency will be in a position to approach the European Commission to suggest a change in the current law. In the short term there is no prospect of the law
being changed to allow approved slaughterhouses to produce skin on sheep. Consequently, the production of smokies in the UK remains unlawful. The FSA will continue to work with local
authorities to ensure the law is enforced.

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