6 December 1996

MEPs inspect BSE controls

SIX Euro-MPs visited the UK this week as part of the European Parliaments inquiry into BSE.

As well as visiting a farm, abattoir, auction market and rendering plant, the MEPs also met senior MAFF officials, the Commons agriculture select committee, and the NFU.

Organised by Tory MEP Lord Plumb, the three-day visit allowed the all-party group to see the BSE control measures the UK had put in place, and how they operated.

The European Parliament set up its inquiry in July to investigate the history of BSE and allegations of official cover-ups and maladministration. A report is expected early in the new year.

Farm minister, Douglas Hogg, has refused to appear before the committee, sending senior officials in his place. Giving evidence on Monday, MAFFs chief vet Keith Meldrum admitted that there had been some failures in controls at feed mills and rendering plants. But tough steps had since been taken, including the total ban on meat and bonemeal.

NFU deputy president, Ben Gill, accompanied the six MEPs on Wednesday. After visiting Midland Meat Packers in Crick, Northants and Banbury market, Mr Gill said the they had been impressed by the checks and controls that were in place.

The visits were an invaluable opportunity to correct many of the misconceptions that people in other countries seemed to have, Mr Gill said. The MEPs had been surprised to see that cattle over 30-months old at the market were perfectly healthy, and not diseased and pathetic as they had expected.

&#8226 The EU Commission is furious that 13 of the 15 member states have rejected its plans to ban all cattle and sheep offal from the human food chain. At the EU standing veterinary committee meeting this week, only France and the UK supported the proposal. Other member states argued that there was no need for the ban. &#42