UK: No labels needed for milk, meat from clones’ offspring

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 9th December 2010

Milk and meat from the offspring of cloned animals would not need to carry labels informing consumers of the origin of the food, the UK’s food-safety watchdog has argued.

A meeting of the Food Standards Agency board yesterday agreed that the mandatory labelling of milk meat from the descendants of cloned cattle and pigs would be “unnecessary and disproportionate”.

The use of such labels would provide “no significant food safety benefit to consumers”, the FSA board said.

The issue of food from cloned animals and their offspring is a subject of fierce debate in the UK and across the EU. There are concerns over how safe it is to eat such food, while animal-welfare campaigners claim cloning is dangerous to animals.

Yesterday’s meeting of the FSA board sought to provide fresh advice to UK farmers following “recent developments” on the issue.

In October, the European Commission proposed to temporarily ban the use of animal cloning for food production for five years.

The European Commission’s proposal, which is still to be ratified by the EU, insisted there was “no scientific evidence” to say eating food from cloned animals or their offspring was unsafe.

However, the Commission said its proposal was “a realistic and feasible solution to respond to … welfare concerns” and would clear the way for new regulations on so-called novel foods.

MEPs had called for the new novel-foods law to exclude cloned meat and dairy because their inclusion would legalise the products. The Commission said its proposal for a five-year “moratorium” on cloned food would help the EU “move forward” with wider novel-foods regulations.

The FSA board meeting also came a week days after the watchdog’s Advisory Committee of Novel Foods and Processes said milk and meat from cloned animals and their progeny was “hypothetically safe”.

At its meeting yesterday, the FSA board said the marketing of products from cloned animals should be subject to the novel-foods legislation. However, it said that, based on current evidence, there are “no food-safety grounds” to regulate foods from the clones’ offspring.

At the meeting, the board noted that the European Commission’s proposal for a temporary ban on the use of cloned animals for food did “not recommend any restrictions on the use of the immediate offspring or later descendants of clones or on the marketing of food obtained from such animals”.

“The FSA is minded to adopt the position taken by the European Commission and others, that food obtained from the descendants of clones of cattle and pigs does not require authorisation under the novel foods regulation,” it said.

“The board will seek the views of interested parties in relation to this change of position, and will return to this matter in the future if new information makes this necessary.”

In August, the issue of food from cloned animals was brought to national attention in the UK after it emerged that two bulls, the offspring of cloned cattle, have made it into the food chain, one last year and the other this year.

The FSA prevented meat from a third bull from entering the food chain, then claiming selling products from offspring of clones ran contrary to EU law.