THE FOOD Standards Agency is investigating an apparent failure by the Meat Hygiene Service to test some casualty cattle aged between 24 and 30 months for BSE before they entered the food chain.

The FSA reported at its public board meeting on May 13 that five casualty cattle had entered the food chain without being tested for BSE.

But latest figures from the MHS indicate that up to 200 cases may have entered the food chain since Jan 2003.

“The risk is minimal because clinical BSE has not been seen in UK cattle under 30-months since 1996 and Specified Risk Material controls have been applied,” said FSA chairman John Krebs.

“However, we need to be confident that all measures are properly enforced – both food safety and surveillance – if BSE risks are to be effectively managed.”

The agency said it had taken measures to ensure that the correct procedures were fully met in the future, calling the apparent failures ‘unacceptable‘.

But reassuringly for the FSA, there have been no BSE positives from more than 2,800 casualty cattle tested to date in the UK.

The European Commission introduced the requirement to test casualty cattle in June 2001 to ‘provide an early warning system of any unfavourable trend in the incidence of BSE‘.

Before that requirement casualty animals entered the food chain without routine testing being carried-out, although, as now all SRM was removed.