Britain tightens beef import checks

24 November 2000

Britain tightens beef import checks

By FWi staff

BRITAIN has strengthened its inspection regime on imported beef in response to fears that French beef at risk of harbouring BSE could be slipping into the country.

From midnight on Thursday (23 Nov) local councils began spot checks on beef coming into the UK at the request of the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Where documentation on cargoes is be inadequate, environmental health officers have been told carry out an investigation.

FSA chairman Sir John Krebs told the BBC: “We are asking all local authorities to carry out spot checks on all imported meat to ensure that no over 30 month beef is coming into the UK for human consumption.

“We are asking local authorities to report back to us on that basis.”

FSA chairman Sir John Krebs said earlier this week that “a potential loophole” might have allowed the import of beef from French cattle aged over 30 months into the UK.

At present older meat from countries deemed at risk from BSE can be legally imported into Britain even though it cannot legally be sold for human consumption.

This can be processed for re-export, and it is feared that some also ends up in low-grade takeaway food through a lack of strict controls.

There are also fears that French meat over thirty months old could be packaged in a third country and then shipped to Britain without revealing its French origin.

Beef from cattle over 30 months from EU counties which are not thought to have cases of BSE can be imported for human consumption in Britain.

In addition, to the audit, all imported beef will have to be labelled in the supermarkets with the country of origin, reports the BBC.

And Britain has also announced it is sending inspectors from the FSA to France to check the safety of French beef.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times reports that scientists in Switzerland have found a natural protein which sticks to prions, infectious agents thought to cause BSE.

This could lead to the development of the first simple blood test for variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of BSE.

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