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Trade Advice Document

Trading advice from several sources is available to help businesses comply with the law.

The Health and Safety Executive website has advice on:

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute provides advice on a number of topics:

Composition of meat products

In the guide

This guidance is for England

The Products Containing Meat etc (England) Regulations 2014 define 'meat' and 'regulated product'. They require certain types of regulated meat products to contain a minimum amount of meat.

There are also further requirements when the product contains particular types of meat. This is known as a reserved description.

'Meat product' or 'meat'?

A 'regulated product' is defined in the Regulations as: 'a food that contains one of the following as an ingredient (whether or not the food also contains any other ingredient): (a) meat; (b) mechanically separated meat….;  (c) the heart, the tongue, the muscles of the head (other than the masseters), the carpus, the tarsus, or the tail of any mammalian or bird species recognised as fit for human consumption'.

The following are not meat products:

  • raw meat with no added ingredients (except proteolytic enzymes)
  • uncooked poultry with no added ingredients except additives, water, self-basting preparations or seasonings
  • products containing fat but no other meat

'Meat' means: 'the skeletal muscle of mammalian or bird species recognised as fit for human consumption with naturally included or adherent tissue'. Note that this means mechanically recovered meat, heart, tongue, etc are not meat for the purposes of calculating meat contents. There are also limits set for the amount of fat and connective tissue that can be included with the muscle as 'meat', and these are as follows:

Type of meat  Pork Birds and rabbits Beef, lamb and other species
fat 30% 15% 25%
connective tissue 25% 10% 25%

If these limits are exceeded, the 'meat' content should be lowered and the list of ingredients must mention, in addition to the term '… meat', the presence of fat and/or connective tissue.

Making your own meat products

If you make your own products ensure that you know, and stick to, the exact recipe and make due allowance for variations in mixing and/or manufacture.

Compositional requirements for certain meat products

The minimum meat content requirements and requirements as to the type of meat used in certain products are summarised in the table below.

Please note:

  • X is used to refer to a specific type of meat, such as beef in beef burgers, pork in pork pies, etc
  • meat content for numbers 7-13 should be calculated by reference to the weight of uncooked ingredients
  • meat includes cured meat 
Name of product  Pork only Birds and rabbits only Beef, lamb and other species, or other mixtures of meat Type of meat used
1. burger 67% 55% 62% if described as an X burger, the amount of X must be at least equal to the minimum required meat content
2. economy burger 50%  41% 47% if described as an X economy burger, the amount of X must be at least equal to the minimum required meat content
3. hamburger 67% N/A 62% all pork, all beef or a mixture of pork and beef
4. chopped X 75% 62% 70% N/A
5. corned meat, corned X 120% 120% 120% all the meat must be X - total fat content must not exceed 15%
6. luncheon meat, luncheon X 67% 12.5% 62% N/A
7. meat pie, meat pudding, X pie, X pudding, game pie, weighing more than 200g 12.5% 12.5% 12.5% N/A
8. meat pie, meat pudding, X pie, X pudding, game pie, weighing not more than 200g and not less than 100g 11% 11% 11% N/A
9. meat pie, meat pudding, X pie, X pudding, game pie, weighing less than 100g 10% 10% 10% N/A
10. Scottish pie, Scotch pie 10% 10% 10% N/A
11. meat and something else pie, meat and something else pudding, X and something else pie, X and something else pudding 7%  7% 7% N/A
12. something else and meat pie, something else and meat pudding, something else and X pie, something else and X pudding 6% 6% 6% N/A
13. pasty, pastie, bridie, sausage roll 6% 6% 6% N/A
14. pork sausage (but not pork liver sausage or pork tongue sausage), pork link, pork chipolata, pork sausage meat 42% N/A N/A N/A
15. sausage (but not liver sausage or tongue sausage), link, chipolata, sausage meat 32% 26% 30% N/A

Sales to caterers

These must comply with the same minimum standards as retail.

Uncooked meat products

Certain parts of the carcase of mammalian species may not be used in uncooked meat products (brains, feet, small and large intestine, lungs, oesophagus, rectum, spinal cord, spleen, stomach, testicles, udder). However, uncooked intestines may be used as casings (for sausages, for example). Conversely, if the sausage casing is inedible, this must be indicated. Note also the banned material in the following section.

Specified risk material (SRM)

The sale of SRM or any food containing it for human consumption is banned, as is its use or sale for use in the preparation of food for human consumption. For bovine animals, SRM varies according to whether it originated in the UK and its age, but generally includes skull (including brain and eyes), tonsils, spinal cord, thymus, spleen, and intestines. For sheep and goats there are also differences for age, UK and non-UK animals, but generally SRM includes skull (including brain and eyes), tonsils, spinal cord, and spleen.

Minced meat

There is no standard prescribed by law, but it is generally accepted that it should not contain more than 25% fat. If qualified by words such as 'lean' or 'extra lean', a fat content considerably less than this would be expected. Where a particular meat is named - such as 'minced beef' - there should be no other meats present. The use of additives in minced meat is prohibited.

Under annex VI, part B of Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers minced meat may not be labelled with any of the descriptions in the table below unless it complies with the relevant criteria (being less than or equal to the number given, with the composition being 'checked on the basis of a daily average'). In addition, when prepacked minced meat needs to have an indication of the 'percentage of fat content under...' and 'collagen / meat protein ratio under...' on the label.

Type of minced meat Fat content - less than or equal to... Collagen / meat protein ratio - less than or equal to... 
lean minced meat 7% 12%
minced pure beef 20% 15%
minced meat containing pigmeat 30% 18%
minced meat of other species 25% 15%

If the mince does not meet these compositional requirements it can still be sold but for prepacked mince it should have the national mark and the statement 'For the UK market only' on the label. The indication of the 'percentage of fat content under...' and 'collagen / meat protein ratio under...'  should also be given on the label.

Mince sold loose that does not meet the compositional standards should have the national mark indicated but does not need the fat and collagen / meat protein ratio statements.

Additives

The types and amounts of additives, such as colours and preservatives, that can be used in meat products are strictly controlled. Some are banned, whereas for others only permitted additives may be used. For more detail on colours please see 'Colours in food'; there is also information and business guidance on additives and E numbers on the Food Standards Agency website. Please ask your local trading standards service if you require further details. 

Requirements concerning the name of the food

If any meat product contains added proteins originating from a different animal, this must be stated in the name of the food.

If you produce or sell uncooked cured or uncured meat products with the appearance of a cut, joint, slice, portion or carcase of meat that contain more than 5% water, you must include the words 'added water' in the name of the food.

If the meat product contains any other added ingredients apart from these, whether this needs to be included in the name of the food should be determined on a case-by-case basis in accordance with article 17 of EU Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011. 

EU protected food names

Certain food products, including Cornish Pasties, Traditional Cumberland Sausage, and the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, have been accredited with protected status. Any products using this name must comply with the compositional and/or origin requirements. More information on protected food names is available on the GOV.UK website. 

Penalties

Failure to comply may result in an improvement notice being issued, requiring compliance to be achieved. If the improvement notice is not complied with it is an offence under the Food Safety Act 1990. The maximum penalty is a fine and two years' imprisonment.

If allergen information does not comply with the requirements it is an offence under the Food Information Regulations 2014. The maximum penalty on conviction is a fine.

Further reading

More information is available in The Meat Products Regulations 2014: Guide to Compliance, published by the Food Standards Agency.

Key legislation

Last reviewed / updated: November 2016

PixelPlease note

This information is intended for guidance; only the courts can give an authoritative interpretation of the law.

The guide's 'Key legislation' links may only show the original version of the legislation, although some amending legislation is linked to separately where it is directly related to the content of a guide. Information on amendments to UK legislation can be found on each link's 'More Resources' tab; amendments to EU legislation are usually incorporated into the text.

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The county council is not responsible for this information.