16 January 2001
BSE-risk beef ‘flooded into Britain’

By Johann Tasker

THOUSANDS of tonnes of beef from older cattle at risk from BSE has been imported into Britain, the National Beef Association (NBA) has claimed.

At least 15% of 107,000 tonnes of beef imported from the Republic of Ireland last year was almost certainly taken from cattle over 30 months old, it believes.

The European Union has banned beef from animals older than 30 months from the food chain unless it has been tested and shown to be free from BSE.

But NBA chief executive Robert Forster said Irish-owned companies frequently distributed Irish beef that had been cut and packed in UK plants.

The banned older beef had been sold on to a “wide range of British customers, including front-line supermarkets and burger-manufacturers,” he said.

At-risk beef had also been imported through abattoirs in Northern Ireland, Mr Forster added. Some was packed by companies and sold on to British customers.

“We are told by a range of sources that only around 20% of the cattle slaughtered last year would have been under 30 months,” said Mr Forster.

“These would have produced about 92,000 tonnes of beef, which would account for 85% of Irish beef deliveries into the UK.

“Somewhere around 15,000 tonnes was most probably taken from over-30-months-old cattle and if so should not have been placed on the UK food market.”

Mr Forster said imports were still arriving from the Irish Republic.

If imported beef is from cattle under 30 months, then the scarcity of such animals should mean that shipments are down on last years levels, he said.

“If they are not then they must include beef from over-30-months-old cattle.”

Supermarkets and burger-makers should re-examine their supplies of beef in case they have unwittingly put at-risk beef on their shelves, said Mr Forster.