5 January 2001

Spinal cord mistake sees vet suspended

AN official veterinary surgeon who failed to spot a sheep carcass containing pieces of spinal cord in a Devon abattoir has been suspended while the Meat Hygiene Service investigates the incident.

The breach of BSE controls was uncovered during a routine audit by the State Veterinary Service a week before Christmas. The carcass, which had been health-marked as fit for human consumption, has been destroyed.

A Food Standards Agency spokesman said the investigation, which is continuing, indicates that the OVS was at fault rather than the abattoir.

"It appears to be a case of human error rather than systematic failure in the abattoir. The ultimate sanction for the OVS is dismissal," he said.

The agency would not name the abattoir as it appears not to be at fault, he said.

He said it was the third time in 2000 that specified risk material had been found in cattle and sheep carcasses. The other two incidents were in Northern Ireland and the north west of England. &#42