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Is MSM in supermarket sausages?


Meat companies like Tönnies are suspected of mixing mechanically separated meat into their sausages and thus deceiving consumers. This is shown by new tests and exclusive research by SPIEGEL and NDR.

AreaRead the video transcript expand here

This film is about the sausage - and the industry that produces it.

Franz Voll, former master butcher

"Politicians have missed what came to my mind as a stupid little butcher."

For years, the big manufacturers were repeatedly accused of secretly mixing mechanically separated meat, i.e. a cheap leftover product, into the cold cuts - without writing this on the packs as required.

Do Tönnies, Wiesenhof & Co. deceive supermarket customers by overselling inferior cold cuts?

Together with the Norddeutscher Rundfunk we researched for months: in a sausage kitchen, in the laboratory, in supermarkets and with the big players in the industry.

The results could have legal ramifications for some producers.

And you, as a consumer, shouldn't particularly like them either.


»One is amazed at how the end customer or consumer is presented.«


"What's the reputation of the meat industry in your opinion?"


'Not a particularly good one.

That's why we go to the local butcher.«


“So sausage is always made from the leftovers.

Everything goes through the meat grinder and then you can't see anything."

Franz Voll has been dealing with the topic of consumer deception with sausage products for years.

Here the former master butcher is preparing a high-quality boiled poultry sausage: with chicken, a little water and spices.

He never buys cold cuts from the supermarket, which Voll claims is often of inferior quality.

His accusation: The industry mixes in cheap mechanically separated meat in order to reduce the production costs for the cold cuts and increase their own profits.

In the sausage kitchen, the former food inspector shows us what some manufacturers supposedly do with their goods.

Voll procured this so-called mechanically separated meat especially for us through contacts in the sausage industry.

Franz Voll, former master butcher

»The legislator has also made it very clear: anyone who processes this meat, mechanically separated meat, must label it.

He has to write it on the package: made with mechanically separated meat.

We only had the problem for 40 years, we couldn't prove it.

So no one wrote on it either."

Mechanically separated meat is produced by machines forcing animal carcasses or coarsely chopped bones with leftover meat through sieves.

Bone splinters and pieces of cartilage are mostly left hanging, all soft parts such as muscles, fat and connective tissue are squeezed off.

This creates a mushy mass.

Proponents of this procedure argue that as much as possible of the killed animal is used.

And mechanically separated meat is harmless to health.

But: According to the law, it would have to be labeled - not only on the list of ingredients, but also next to the product name.

Both hardly ever happen.

Franz Voll, former master butcher

»Yes, it's a mixture of dog poop and silicone from the window, it just doesn't stick to your fingers as badly.

But you can tell it's completely torn up.

It has no structure at all.

It's no longer meat.

It's completely torn.

The stuff is just disgusting and in any case inferior.«

So what would otherwise be useless is wasted.

And that is extremely favorable for the industry.

For comparison: According to master butcher Voll, 1 kilo of poultry meat for sausage production currently costs around 2.50 euros.

Mechanically separated meat, on the other hand, only costs 35 to 50 cents per kilo.

If you mix it in, the production costs drop drastically.

The problem: So far it has been difficult to prove mechanically separated meat beyond any doubt.

Experts either tried to determine an increased calcium content or to find the smallest bone splinters.

But both methods can be tricked.

Manufacturers can reduce the calcium content below the limit by diluting it.

And using modern sieves, you can remove even the smallest bone residue from the sausage mixture.

Another idea came up – at least for poultry sausage.

His reasoning: The meat residues that are still attached to the chicken's spine after the muscle meat has been removed are of particular interest to the manufacturers.

According to Voll, if a separator is used, intervertebral discs from the spine should also be found in the separator meat.

Franz Voll, former master butcher

»We have the intervertebral discs in here.

And if that is crushed, because the intervertebral disc is also a very soft material, thank God it is also crushed.

And that can never be prevented.

No matter what setting you have in the machine.

That means I always have these intervertebral disc materials in there.

Because it's just not worth putting someone out there to pull it off.

That would be completely uneconomical.«

Together with scientists from the Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences, Voll went in search of clues - and together they found a protein that made the breakthrough for poultry sausage.

But more on that later.

First, Franz Voll produces blind samples that the researchers will later decode: four batches of poultry sausages in which he mixes no mechanically separated meat at all, 5 percent, 10 percent or 20 percent mechanically separated meat.

He sends the sausages to the laboratory in Bremerhaven.

In the meantime, we go shopping - over months, again and again, at all the big supermarket and discounter chains.

We also have these samples examined by the researchers.

To do this, we bag the sausage slices and send two chilled samples of each type from the same batch to the laboratory.

In Bremerhaven we now want to check the method.

The researchers have now published their study (using the new scientific approach) in a renowned specialist journal.

In the laboratory, the research assistant prepares the sausage samples.

They are first crushed, freeze-dried and then pureed.

In order to find the protein that is typical for the intervertebral disc, a special enzyme is added to the sausage pulp.

This ensures that it is broken up into pieces.

The weight of these building blocks is then determined and sorted in a mass spectrometer.

This is how they can be identified.

If the researchers find five building blocks that only occur in the type II alpha 1 collagen they are looking for, the meat cuts most likely contain mechanically separated chicken.

Stefan Wittke, Bremerhaven University

»Now we are excited!«

Comparison of results: Did Professor Wittke manage to identify the sausages that Franz Voll intentionally mixed with different concentrations of mechanically separated meat?

Stefan Wittke, Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences

»So, the note.

We have sample one.

That's the one that's the middle one for us.

This is the medium-high concentration.

We have sample two, where we say this is our suspected case with the 5% and sample three, which is clearly positive and is said to contain 20%.




So the test worked.

Now we are excited to see the results of the samples we sent in.

What's in the supermarket sausage?

But before that, we try to research the background of the use of mechanically separated meat in the food industry.

The fact is, nobody talks about it openly.

Neither the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food nor the responsible state ministries were able to provide us with comprehensive information on how many tons of mechanically separated meat are actually produced in Germany.

The results from Bremerhaven suggest that it could still be used.

Of the 30 cold cut samples that DER SPIEGEL submitted together with NDR, nine were positive, including well-known brand names such as Gutfried, Edeka Bio and Rewe Beste Wahl.

Mechanically separated meat was not even mentioned once on the ingredients lists on the packaging.

Stefan Wittke, Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences

»Sure, you can of course come and say: Yes, we're sorry, we threw in a bit too much gristle.

But that's why we said: No, then we'll go about it very conservatively.

We don't say: we're looking for small quantities, but we're looking for large quantities and only when there are large quantities do we say: Yes, it's possible."

Consumer advocates are appalled: If the suspicion is confirmed, it would be "consumer fraud," says the NGO Foodwatch.

Matthias Wolfschmidt, Foodwatch

"The goods are not marketable, would have to be cleared from the shelves and either labeled correctly or should no longer be sold at all."

And lawyers even speak of the threat of criminal prosecution for fraud - should the suspicion be true and the companies act intentionally.

And what do the manufacturers say?

After all, five of the nine products that tested positive came from a company in the Tönnies group of companies.

There were also two types of sausage from Franz Wiltmann and one product each from Wiesenhof and Mecklenburger Landpute.

None of the companies agreed to an interview with us.

All denied in writing the use of mechanically separated meat.

Mecklenburger Landpute:

»No mechanically separated meat is used in our products.«


"We do not use mechanically separated meat in the products mentioned."

Franz Wiltmann:

"In the manufacture of the products mentioned, no 'separated meat' was and is used."


»In the sausage products of the WIESENHOF brand, no mechanically separated meat is or was used.«

Wiesenhof also submitted affidavits.

In addition, regular checks are carried out based on officially recognized histological examinations and checks of the calcium content.

In contrast, the test procedure at Bremerhaven University has so far been nothing more than a new scientific approach.

According to Wiesenhof, the supposed mechanically separated meat markers are also found in other meat components, especially in tendons.

In addition, the test was only developed for chickens, it is completely unclear whether it can also be applied to turkeys.

But the fact is: All of the products submitted by SPIEGEL and NDR also contain chicken.

And according to the study, collagens do occur in tendons – but not the specific protein collagen type II alpha 1, to which the laboratory tests relate.

State food protectors are now drawing hope: Matthias Denker from the State Office for Food Safety in Rostock can imagine the new method being used across the board in the future.

He believes that it could permanently change the behavior of sausage producers.

Matthias Denker, State Office for Food Safety in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

»As always in food monitoring, it's a hare-and-hedgehog game.

It's not all evil or black sheep.

But those who try something, as long as it doesn't attract attention, do it.

If we can prove it, it might go away real quick."

Consumers who already want to avoid mechanically separated meat in cold cuts can at least follow a few tips.

It's safest to go to a butcher who still produces their own meat.

In contrast, in Lyoner or Mortadella from the supermarket, mechanically separated meat appears to be particularly common.

With Kassler, roast or chicken breast fillet, customers are more on the safe side.

Source: spiegel

All business articles on 2022-06-23

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