22 May 1998
Cunningham overturns SRM rules for sheep
By Boyd Champness
EXPORTERS shipping sheep carcasses to France will no longer have to remove the spinal cord after the Government overturned this unpopular safety measure last night.
Opening the agriculture debate in the Commons, agriculture minister Dr Jack Cunningham said he had decided to amend the rules in a bid to help exporters regain French markets lost to them since the beginning of the year. French buyers prefer a whole carcass.
Dr Cunningham said: “I know that our SRM controls have had a particularly heavy impact on the returns our sheep farmers have been able to get for their cull ewes this year.
“Because of the requirement for ewe carcasses to be split in the abattoir or cutting plant and the spinal cord removed, French demand for whole carcasses has been met by producers in other countries.”
Dr Cunningham said he decided that an amendment to the SRM regulations could be made – so that UK producers can regain this market – after having in-depth discussions with the French authorities. The trade was worth about £16 million a year until the French stopped buying British split carcasses.
“It will still be necessary to ensure that spinal cord is removed from the carcasses before the meat is sold but this would be done in designated French abattoirs.
“Depending on the outcome of our statutory consultation of interested organisations on our proposals to amend the SRM rules, it should be possible for exports of whole ewe carcasses to resume in the summer,” he said.