6 December 2000
Imported beef cleared by agency

By FWi staff

FRENCH beef is no more of a risk to British consumers than the home-produced product, claim food safety watchdogs.

The Food Standards Agency has reported that there was no basis for a ban, following a fact-finding mission to France last week.

British environmental health officers have assured the agency that close checks are being made to ensure beef over 30 months old is not entering the country.

An agency source told The Times that people were keeping a close eye on documentation accompanying beef and beef products.

We will get a complete picture of the imported beef trade in two weeks.

The FSA has welcomed the EU three point-plan designed to eradicate the disease in Europe. Britain already has tough BSE controls.

This includes a ban on meat and bonemeal in all animal feed, BSE tests on cattle aged over 30months before they can enter the food chain, and a ban on the use of the whole intestine in food.

But The Independent reports that the test for BSE has never been properly validated and can give false negative results.

It says validation carried out by the EC Joint Research Centre does not include an assessment of how the test performs of cows which seem healthy but are incubating the disease.

Meanwhile, National Beef Association chief executive Robert Forster says he has little confidence in the post-mortem test for older cattle.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme testing was not a consumer health protection exercise but a move to build consumer confidence.

Mr Forster claimed the test was unreliable and would in effect lead to an over thirty months scheme by another name.

They wont use the test, nor get anything over thirty months old in the food chain. Its an over thirty months cull in all but name.

The Governments expert BSE committee SEAC will review the risk from imported beef at a meeting on December 19.