THE BRITISH Cattle Movement Service has been heavily criticised by a parliamentary inquiry for its failings to accurately record the movement of cattle around the UK, reports The Times.

The Public Accounts Committee found that 1.2million British cattle – one in five of the total British herd – are officially missing.

The Committee immediately raised the question about the safety of large quantities of beef entering the food chain.

“This chaos is a danger to human and animal health because the system is so inadequate,” said Edward Leigh, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

“If there were another foot-and-mouth disease outbreak today or a new spread of variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease the government would not be able to stop animal movements or trace them, or know whether they went in to the food chain.

“How can they do that when they don‘t know where they are?” he added.

He called on the government to take tougher action against farmers who failed to notify officials about animal movement and deliberately put the health of animals and the nation at risk, reported the paper.

“How can anyone now be certain traceability of meat or animals?  Lots of stuff must be getting into the food chain without any traceability because so much of the system is not working.

“This is an accident waiting to happen. Clearly the Department for Environment, and Rural Affairs is in complete chaos,” said Mr Leigh.

The announcement will come as a blow to farmers‘ organisations that have been pressuring ministers to relax BSE controls that prevent cattle over 30-months of age entering the food chain.

In a statement DEFRA said: “It takes and will continue to take livestock identification and tracing very seriously and will continue to focus heavily on it.”

It admitted that no data base can be perfect, and they are encouraging the submission of more accurate data from farmers, and is providing feedback to help them achieve this.