20 October 2000
Spinal cord found in Irish beef
By FWi staff
IRISH beef carcasses destined for the UK market have been found with parts of the spinal cord still attached.
The spinal cord forms part of the specified risk material that has to be removed under BSE regulations.
It was detected in boning plants in Northern Ireland before it was despatched to the British market.
Following complaints to the Department of Agriculture in Dublin, four processing plants in the Irish Republic were closed down temporarily while safety checks were carried out.
The finding of “small amounts of spinal cord” in the carcasses was confirmed by Patrick Wall, chief executive of the Irish Food Safety Authority, who said the four plants involved were not being named because of possible prosecutions.
He described the incidents as a wake-up call to the Irish industry “that BSE controls must be complied with 100% by abattoir proprietors and that rigorous audit and inspection measures must be maintained”.
Dr Wall referred to 11 carcasses found with spinal cord as “isolated incidents”, and said that repeat inspections of the plants had shown no further breaches of the regulations.
He warned that the risk material should have been detected earlier and that such a breakdown in the plants food safety control systems was unacceptable.
As a result of the alerts, safety audits of the plants are being stepped up.
“Because of the sensitivity attached to BSE, there is no room for error,” said Dr Wall.
“Any breach of the regulations can affect confidence in the trade.”
A Department of Agriculture spokesman blamed the incidents on human error.
This year so far, there have been 90 BSE cases in the Republic, an annual increase of 34, but the spokesman noted that none of the cases involved animals born since 1996, when strict feed controls were introduced.