Anger at spinal cord in beef imports

22 March 2001

Anger at spinal cord in beef imports

By FWi staff

FARMERS representatives and food safety watchdogs want an Italian abattoir closed after banned spinal cord was found in imported beef.

The cord, which is among material thought to be most at risk of carrying BSE, was found in 41 forequarters of beef at a meat plant in Blackburn, Lancashire.

National Farmers Union deputy president Tim Bennett said: “This is totally outrageous.

“How can countries in Europe continue to flout the regulations which we have adhered to for years?”

The union is writing to the Food Standards Agency and the EU Commission demanding action as a matter of urgency.

The FSA has already called on the authorities to suspend the licence of the Turin abattoir involved.

This is the 12th breach in imported meat since 17 January, including the discovery of specified risk material in meat from Germany and Holland.

Meanwhile, the expert at the centre of the investigation into a cluster of cases of the human form of BSE says this could be the early stages of an epidemic

Dr Philip Monk, consultant for communicable diseases for Leicestershire health authority, led the countys inquiry at Queniborough.

Five people died of variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD) within a small area.

On Wednesday (22 March) Dr Monk announced that butchering practices which allowed infected brain material to contaminate meat were the likely cause.

Dr Monk told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme that it appeared that the incubation period for vCJD could be between 10 and 16 years,

“The cases were seeing now, if were right, are of people exposed in the very early stages of the epidemic. It is potentially not good news.”

While not identified as a factor in Queniborough, Dr Monk said mechanically recovered meat, which was not banned until 1995, also poses a risk.

“If were right about the incubation, that has serious implications as it means cases from that exposure will be continuing for 16 years from then,” he said.

Peter Scott, director of the British Meat Federation, said the vCJD was of enormous concern and that he was grateful for the Queniborough research.

“I can only assume were walking on eggshells with our fingers crossed for the next 10 or 11 years or so, ” he said.

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