14 July 1995

Sub-standard beef in store

By Liz Mason

BRITISH beef stocks are being scrutinised after Intervention Board officials uncovered 404t of substandard meat.

More than 2000t of the UKs current intervention stocks, totalling 9354t, are being examined by the board. Box-by-box searches have so far revealed that 404t of the beef, which had been taken into store between June 1990 and November 1993, did not meet intervention standards.

Former agriculture minister William Waldegrave told the House of Commons that current stocks are still being examined and may include further ineligible quantities. "The full value of the ineligible beef has either been recovered or will be sought from the companies responsible for boning and packaging it for intake to the intervention stores," he said.

The European Commission has imposed a fine, yet to be finalised, on the UK after a special inquiry found weaknesses in beef intervention controls. Substitution and theft of meat destined for public storage was reported to the inquiry by UK officials.

Labours farm spokesman, Dr Gavin Strang, challenged new farm minister Douglas Hogg on the issue. He asked whether Mr Hogg accepted that fraud is inherent in the CAPs market support mechanisms.

"If we want to stop it, we need to end intervention buying and the subsidy of agricultural exports," said Dr Strang.

Mr Hogg said fraud in the UK, worth £8.5m, was a very small part of the EU whole.

, totalling more than £313m last year.