20 June 1997

Ban foreign beef, urges supplier

By Boyd Champness

THE head of one of the UKs leading beef suppliers has called for a total ban on beef imports although his firm still processes foreign beef.

Nick Askaroff, managing director of the Cibus Group which incorporates meat processors Anglo-Dutch, said he would like to see the government ban all imported beef until other countries adopt Britains rigorous health and safety standards.

"We have restored public confidence in the UK by installing the most rigorous standards and British beef is without doubt the safest in the world," Mr Askaroff said.

He added that consumers believed they were buying British beef which was under 30 months old. But what they did not realise was that they were also buying beef from Europe, Africa, South America and other countries where those same standards were not maintained.

"Outside of Europe there has not been an instance of BSE anywhere else in the world. But our argument is who is doing the testing on BSE in Africa and South America?"

Mr Askaroff conceded that Anglo-Dutch still processed a small amount of foreign beef, about 20-40t a week, down from 150t a week, for customers who requested Continental beef and for re-export.

But he said he would be happy to see all foreign beef banned, particularly boneless beef which could not be identified or checked.

Meat and Livestock Commission figures show 56,600t of EU beef was imported into the UK in 1996 with estimates for 1997 forecasting a rise to 130,000t. An MLC spokesman said sterlings strength made it attractive for EU countries to export to the UK. And German and Dutch consumers had not returned to beef with the same confidence as the British, creating a surplus of EU beef which was in desperate need of new markets.

MAFFs national food survey results show beef consumption in Britain has improved markedly since the start of the BSE crisis. After the fall in household consumption of carcass beef in the second quarter of 1996 it has increased steadily and in the first three months of this year it was slightly higher than in the first quarter of 1996. &#42