Food authority: Poultry meat sold in Estonia still not properly labeled

  • 2023-03-27
  • BNS/TBT Staff

TALLINN – During 2022, the Estonian Agriculture and Food Board identified a number of violations in poultry product labeling, as "hen" continues to be used in the sales descriptions of products that should be presented for sale as "broiler." 

Aivar Ald, leading specialist at the Agriculture and Food Board's department for the organization of fishing and market organization, said a total of 22 companies were checked, of which only two were found to be fully compliant. 

"This is a disappointing result because the requirements have been in place for a long time and have been repeatedly introduced by the Agriculture and Food Board to poultry handlers and distributors. Despite this, companies are not able to correctly show the names of products. Sales descriptions such as 'hen fillet' or 'hen nugget' continue to be used, which are not correct," Alt said in a press release.

A "hen" within the meaning of the European Commission regulation on the organization of the market in poultrymeat is a fowl old enough so that the tip of its sternum is rigid. "Broiler," by contrast, is a young meat chicken a few weeks old the tip of whose sternum is not ossified and the meat is softer and juicier.

"It is from such meat that all kinds of unseasoned and seasoned poultry products are made, whereas 'hen' is intended exclusively for cooking or stewing," the specialist explained.

The labeling checks focused on e-stores, print advertisements and delivery notes sent out by the industry. The Agriculture and Food Board issued injunctions to the companies breaching valid requirements.

"We very much hope that businesses will stop using non-compliant product names and comply with their legal obligations," the official said.

In addition to the examination of sales descriptions, the food authority took samples to determine the water content in chilled and frozen poultrymeat, since only meat with a water content not exceeding certain limits may be put on the market. In the case of unseasoned poultry in excess of the water content limit, there is reason to suspect a deliberate addition of water to meat, which qualifies as fraud. All the samples analyzed met valid requirements.