22 January 2001
Processors warned on beef imports

By Alistair Driver

IMPORTING beef from countries with lax BSE controls could “permanently damage” hard-won consumer confidence in the UK industry, processors have been warned.

Last week 41 tonnes of German beef imported by Northern Irish processor, Eurostock Meat Marketing, was found to be contaminated with spinal cord.

The National Beef Association says it is “not unreasonable” to expect more imported consignments which do not meet new EU BSE requirements to follow.

“Companies importing beef may be tempted to shrug off worries they could be bringing in beef from cattle over 30 months old; from carcasses containing spinal tissue; or from countries which under-report BSE cases,” said association chairman Robert Robinson.

He said “further revelations” could dent consumer confidence.

“It would be foolish in the extreme if short-term purchasing expediency permanently damaged the positive feelings currently being shown toward UK beef.”

The UK has operated watertight controls on feed, specified risk material and over-30-month cattle for five years.

But other member states are struggling to meet the standard now required across the EU, he said.

The only way processors and retailers can be sure of meeting safety standards demanded by the public is to buy “100% rock-solid UK beef”, he added.