20 December 2000
‘Name and shame’ old-beef importers

By FWi staff

NAME and shame meat processors who refuse to provide proof that imported beef they handle is not at risk from BSE, urges a farmers leader.

National Farmers Union of Scotland president Jim Walker says processors need not legally supply government vets with evidence showing meat is from animals under 30 months old.

While it is not illegal to import beef from animals over 30 months – those most at risk from BSE – it is illegal to sell such fresh beef in the UK.

However, processed products made in this country or abroad from older foreign beef can legally be sold in Britain.

Mr Walker said he has written to the Food Standards Agency with a novel approach to make processors more open about the source of their beef.

“I suggested that a list of any meat plants refusing to give inspectors documentary evidence about the age of the beef they are handling should be published,” he said.

In response to growing levels of BSE in mainland Europe, the FSA has tightened controls on the import of older fresh beef.

There are concerns such fresh beef could enter the food chain through low-grade takeaway outlets, although Mr Walker admits he has no evidence of this.

In any case, as the FSA admits, preventing this would only be half the battle, as it would not tackle the loophole allowing the sale of at-risk processed products.

Mr Walker said the only way consumers could guarantee that the beef they buy was from cattle under 30 months of age was to buy British products.