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EC to tamper with turkeys

December 20th, 1992
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Myth: The British turkey is due to be outlawed thanks to the EC Poultry Meat Hygiene Directive, under which dead turkeys cannot be left to hang intact for two weeks; instead they are to be gutted and chilled which will destroy much of the flavour and help put many turkey producers out of work.

Response: What the Commission has actually put forward is something rather different. Firstly, it has proposed that turkeys may be hung uneviscerated for foureen days, but that evisceration should then take place in a licensed plant which would be able to provide the necessary hygiene guarantees. Secondly, it has proposed that the small establishments which supply local markets could be granted a derogation to this directive. Consequently the flavour of Britain’s turkeys will not be affected in the least.

Another frequent allegation is that as a result of this directive British producers will have to hang their poultry at less than 4 degrees Celsius. The temperature proposed under EC legislation is 4 degrees Celsius, precisely what it is under current UK legislation.

Background: All this needs to be examined in light of the advent of the Single Market. At present uneviscerated turkeys which have been hung for a long time cannot be exported to other countries. The UK and France are the main producers of turkey in the EC; indeed they are the only two EC Member States capable of exporting turkeys. It is therefore very much in their interests to be able to export, and equally for it to be acceptable to other Member States, and this could be implemented within the framework of an EC directive. Shortly before Christmas a few years ago the UK unexpectedly abolished turkey vaccination against Newcastle disease and banned the import of vaccinated turkeys from France. After Christmas the British authorities retraced their steps and reintroduced vaccination, thereby taking advantage of an EC Directive making possible exports of turkeys without hindrance.

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