10 October 2000
‘Private kills risk BSE in food chain’

By FWi staff

FARMERS illegally passing on privately slaughtered meat could be allowing BSE to enter the food chain, warns the governments food safety chief.

Producers are allowed to kill animals on-farm, or have them slaughtered at unlicensed abattoirs, provided the meat is for their own use.

Meat from these sources need not undergo safety checks found on other abattoirs to prevent BSE entering the food chain.

While such meat should not be sold or given away, Sir John Krebs, chairman of the Food Standards Agency fears some may be entering the food chain.

“The concern is that some of this meat is passed on or sold on for wider consumption which would be against the law,” Sir John told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

“Even giving it away counts as a sale in the eyes of the law. This is an area that we want to look into in some detail.”

Under anti-BSE measures, cattle aged over 30 months are deemed unfit for human consumption, unless registered under the mature meat assurance scheme.

But they could be slaughtered privately for consumption.

And stringent measures to remove specified risk material such as the brain and spinal cord may not be applied to a private kill, said Sir John.

Sir John said: “That is precisely why we are concerned about both the extent this goes on, and the possibility that meat or meat products from private kills could get into the wider food chain.”

He said consumers, especially those in rural areas, should only buy meat from a reputable source and look out for a health mark.

Sir John said he hoped to tighten up on legal position of unlicensed abattoirs and offer advice to environmental health officers, enforcing the law at local level

Peter Scott, director of the British Meat Federation which represents abattoirs, said he had been unaware of the existence of a significant number of unlicensed abattoirs.

He said he thought farmers were selling on some of the meat.

“I would strongly suspect that the animals brought in by farmers for private kills are returned to farmers in quantities that perhaps would be difficult to consume in one family over a reasonable period of time.”

He said all meat should come through licensed abattoirs.