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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
What's in the great British banger?
The Food Standards Agency has unveiled proposals - which apply in England - which will change the way meat products such as sausages are labelled. BBC News Online asks what is in the great British banger?

Sausage manufacturers jealously guard the exact contents of their recipes.

But there are several staple ingredients which they use and will be unchanged by the Food Standards Agency's new regulations.


The new regulations will not change what is in the great British banger

Richard Stevenson
National Federation of Meat and Food Traders

Richard Stevenson, technical manager of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, told BBC News Online: "The new regulations will not change what is in the great British banger.

"It will just change the labelling so it will look as if there is less meat and more fat.

"The sausage is a relatively high-fat product but not as high as ice cream, or cheese or chocolate."

Pork sausages make up 90% of the market and under the present regulations no less than 65% of the sausage can be meat (it is less for turkey and beef sausages).

Mr Stevenson said traditional butchers tended to put far more meat in their sausages - up to 90%.

Secrets of the sausage
Carmine, cochineal and E128 are used to make them look pink
Sugar, dextrose and honey are used to turn sausages brown
Antioxidants are used to stop them going off
Monosodium glutamate (E621) enhances the flavour
Source: The Consumers' Association

At present meat includes fat (up to half of the meat can be fat), connective tissue (skin rind and gristle) and mechanically recovered meat, known as MRM.

MRM is a pulp which is produced in abattoirs when high-powered jets of water are sprayed on animal carcasses after all the decent cuts of meat have been rendered.

Mr Stevenson said fat was a vital ingredient in making sausages juicy and succulent.

But under the new regulations only pure meat (ie muscle) can be described as meat and the rest will have to be labelled as fat, mechanically recovered meat or rind.

Up to 30% of sausages will be rusk (a powdered bread) or soya, which is used to bulk up the banger. It also helps to bind it together.

Because the rusk is very dry water is used to moisten it.

Most sausages contain 1% or 2% water but manufacturers are allowed to use up to 10% water without declaring it, said Mr Stevenson.

Hilary Briss from League of Gentlemen
All butchers aren't like Hilary Briss...honest

Most sausages contain about 5% seasoning, which helps to make them tasty.

Seasoning includes herbs and spices, such as sage and onion, salt and pepper, and preservatives.

Mass-produced sausages usually contain other additives such as sugar, dextrose, starch, stabilisers, antioxidants, colouring, flavour enhancers.

These help to stop the bangers going off and also improve their colour, taste and texture.


The sausage is a relatively high-fat product but not as high as ice cream, or cheese or chocolate

Richard Stevenson

And the skin?

Mr Stevenson said traditional butchers relied on lamb gut, which had been used for thousands of years to encase sausages.

But in recent years manufacturers have replaced lamb gut with collagen casings, which are slightly cheaper.

Collagen is a manufactured product, a bit like plastic, but it comes from a meat source, such as cattle hides.

Manufacturers tend to prefer collagen as it helps in mass production.

They can make each sausage an identical size and shape, which helps when packaging them.

See also:

27 Sep 02 | England
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