18 January 2001
Infected German beef seized in NI

By Alistair Driver and Johann Tasker

FORTY-ONE tonnes of infected German beef destined for the human food chain have been seized by anti-BSE enforcement officers in Northern Ireland.

The imported German beef quarters were impounded at two cutting plants in Newry, County Down, after spinal cord was discovered in two consignments.

In one consignment of over 20,000kg, two forequarters were found to be contaminated with spinal cord, a specified risk material.

Another piece was found in the other, similar-sized consignment. The beef is likely to be re-exported to Germany, according to the Food Standards Agency.

Morris McAllister, FSA Northern Ireland director, said the beef was under 30 months old. “None of this meat will get anywhere near the human food chain.”

Suzi Leather, FSA deputy chairman, said the breach of BSE rules had been referred to the German authorities and the European Commission.

Joe McDonald, spokesman for the Ulster Farmers Union, said the seizure showed that BSE controls are working, but raised serious questions.

“Farmers will be extremely frustrated by the quantity of beef coming through our plants from Germany when the industry is having such a difficult time.”

The UK imported 1337 tonnes of German beef between September 1999 and August 2000, according to official statistics from the Food Standards Agency.

Earlier this week, Robert Forster, chief executive of Britains National Beef Association, alleged that older beef at risk from BSE had entered Britain.

Mr Forster said that import figures did not stack up, and suggested that Northern Ireland was being used as a point of entry for contaminated supplies.

Older at-risk beef may be coming from Ireland, Mr Forster suggested – an allegation which was denied by Bord Bía, the Irish Food Board.