§ Lord Borthwick
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What tests exist to establish that proten beef is safe to eat, whether any such tests have shown that people could suffer harm from eating such meat, and what percentage of animals treated with proten are being tested.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)
"Proten" is the trade name for a meat tenderizing treatment based on papain, an enzyme derived from the paw-paw fruit. Papain and other food enzymes have been examined by the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT), whose report was appended to the Food Additives and Contaminants Committee Report in 1982 (FAC/REP/35). The COT advised that papain and chymopapain could be used in food at levels governed by good manufacturing practice, provided they comply with a suitable specification of purity. The report, a copy of which is in the Library of the House, contains references to the toxicological data considered by the COT.
Proten is administered pre-slaughter, remains in the meat, and is stimulated—and subsequently largely destroyed—by cooking. No information is held on the extent to which the substances are used, but meat derived from animals which have received this treatment is required under the Food Labelling Regulations 1984 to be described as "tenderised" and we have not observed that this description is in widespread use.