1 December 1995

Further abattoir blow

ABATTOIRS faced further restrictions this week as MAFF banned the use of meat from the backbones of cattle in its drive to prevent the spread of the cattle brain disease BSE.

The ban on the use of the bovine vertebral column in the manufacture of mechanically recovered meat (MRM), used in pet food, follows findings made by the State Veterinary Service during visits to slaughterhouses.

Farm minister Douglas Hogg revealed in a written parliamentary answer that the SVS had found failings in the handling of specified bovine offals in 48% of visits in September and 34% in October. In some cases, small pieces of spinal cord had been found on carcasses.

As a result, Mr Hogg said he had accepted the advice of scientific advisers and banned MRM from the spinal column of all cattle.

MAFFs chief veterinary officer Keith Meldrum said that a ban on younger cattle had been imposed because of the difficulty of ascertaining ages of carcasses in slaughterhouses.

Mr Hogg criticised the abattoir industry for failing to reach the highest standards.

"These new measures are a consequence of the failings in the handling of SBOs we have found in slaughterhouses. I look to slaughterhouse operators now to deliver 100% compliance with the SBO controls," he said.

Peter Scott, Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers general secretary, said the MRM ban could slow carcass throughput in slaughterhouses. Most MRM is made from poultry, pig and sheep meat, which remain unaffected by the governments decision.

Colin Maclean, Meat and Livestock director general, said the extra precautions would help reassure consumers.