23 October 1998

Belgian pigmeat imports may have illegal residues

By Jonathan Riley

THE Pig Veterinary Society has expressed serious concern over the import of Belgian pigmeat which, it suspects, could contain residues of sedatives that are banned from use in food producing animals in the UK.

The PVS quotes a recent survey by Belgian consumer watchdog Test-Achats which showed that 67% of the countrys pigmeat contained tranquilliser residues. The society believes the drug could be Acepromazine, used on the continent to sedate pigs before transit. It is illegal to use the product in livestock in the UK.

Carcass quality

The same survey also investigated hygiene and carcass quality, finding that over 80% of Belgian samples were unacceptable. That compared with 55% of samples from Portugal, 50% for Spain, and 30% for France.

PVS president Gareth Williams said the society had warned earlier this year that imported meat could compromise British consumers health.

"It is sad and a disgrace that this warning has been ignored by some processors and retailers, apparently in pursuit of greater profits," said Mr Williams

In contrast, British meat had a compulsory random testing programme that had found no such drug residues, he added.

"The British farmers record of residue testing is exemplary, and retailers should insist on British pigmeat products to safeguard their reputation and the well-being of their consumers."

Meanwhile, the British Pig Industry Support Group, which recently targeted the Budgens store at Harleston, Norfolk, which was selling Belgian pigmeat, has called in Trading Standards officials.

The group is not satisfied that the retailer can verify claims that its pigmeat is sourced only from stall-and-tether-free units and has asked Trading Standards to investigate.

&#8226 The House of Commons agriculture select committee is to hold an inquiry into the UK pig industry, focusing on the current financial viability of the sector from production through to retail. Any interested parties wishing to submit evidence should send 20 copies of a memorandum to the Clerk of the Agriculture Committee, 7 Millbank, London SW1P 3JA, by Nov 30.