17 May 2002

MHS technicality is threat to carcasses

MEAT Hygiene Service officials have been criticised for insisting two carcasses should be destroyed at a Hampshire abattoir because proper inspection procedures were not followed.

Surrey farmer and butcher Stephen Conisbee of Barracks Farm, Fetcham, is battling for the return of the two bulls, which the MHS claimed were not inspected before slaughter at Turners of Farnborough (Ockwell Meat Company).

The MHS ruled the two 14-month animals were not inspected ante-mortem so could not go into the food chain. They have been detained until further notice.

An MHS spokesman said: "The regulations do not permit animals to be slaughtered unless ante-mortem inspected, therefore they have been detained."

But Mr Conisbee, who wants to sell the animals at his two shops in East Horsley, insisted the animals were perfectly healthy and should be returned to him.

"It is criminal to destroy perfectly healthy cattle on a technicality," he said. "I want them back to sell in my shop."

Mr Conisbee told farmers weekly that his haulier had followed the normal procedure at the slaughterhouse which was to summon the vet, on arrival, by ringing a bell. There was still no sign of the vet after three attempts of ringing the bell, so the haulier was finally forced to unload the animals. They were slaughtered shortly afterwards.

Abattoir owner Mark Newman, who is backing Mr Conisbee, said he would refuse to surrender the carcasses to the MHS for disposal.

The records suggested the animals had been checked before slaughter, he said. They were also inspected post-mortem and stamped so they could be consumed.

"There is no reason why perfectly wholesome meat should not go into the food chain," he said.

William White, NFU policy adviser, said the MHS had a duty of care to the abattoir, which it had not fulfilled.

Mr White said he believed in this instance officials should show some flexibility and release the animals back to Mr Conisbee.

He added that he was particularly concerned about the issue because it could make relations difficult between the plant operator and the MHS. If the MHS withdrew Mr Newmans licence to operate, this would leave Hampshire without an abattoir. &#42