19 January 2001
Germany tightens meat inspection

By Alistair Driver

GERMAN meat inspectors have been told to step up their checks after 41 tonnes of contaminated beef was sent from Germany to Northern Ireland.

The German ministry covering food and farming said controls had to be tightened after the Northern Ireland seizures on Wednesday (17 January).

The consignment, contaminated with spinal cord, was the first taken from Germany by Eurostock Meat Marketing based in Newry, Co Down.

Concern over BSE in Germany has forced down beef prices, which encouraged the company to take an “experimental look” at German meat.

Managing director Martin White said the meat was earmarked for re-export back to the Continent, probably France.

But after the discovery of at least three pieces of spinal cord by anti-BSE enforcement agents, it is now likely to be sent back to Germany and destroyed.

“It was only a few inches of spinal cord that should not have got past the German authorities, but was picked up here,” said Mr White.

“Even if it wasnt, it would not have got into the food chain.”

Mr White hit back at criticism by the Ulster Farmers Union, which has questioned so much imported beef was being processed in a local meat plant.

“We are an export company and always have been,” he told FARMERS WEEKLY.

“In 1996, when UK beef exports were banned because of BSE, we had two choices – to close or to import from the continent and re-export.”

Eurostock is a doing a good job for local farmers by maintaining a local presence in EU export markets, Mr White claimed.

This could be important if Northern Ireland is awarded low incidence BSE status by the EU, opening the way again for exports, he added.

Northern Ireland agriculture minister Brid Rodgers delayed a submission to Brussels for low incidence BSE status before Christmas.

Ms Rodgers blamed the escalating European BSE crisis. But the UFU said the German incident showed efforts to acquire the status now had to be redoubled.

“We now have a gold plated product and this should not be denied access to the world market,” said UFU president Douglas Rowe.

“Why should we be processing thousands of tonnes of imported beef when we have a first class product available locally?”