UK processor under fire for BSE slip

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Processing firm ABP Shrewsbury is under investigation by the UK's
food regulator after allowing a heifer to enter the food chain
without undergoing mandatory testing for bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE).

The incident comes only months after the EU relaxed restrictions on the sale of UK meat to the continent on the condition that it maintained stringent testing controls. This is the third heifer to slip through since safety measures were put in place.

For processors, it also highlights the importance of traceability procedures and the maintaining the integrity of the data throughout the food chain.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) requires mandatory testing of bovine animals intended for human consumption that are over thirty-months-old at time of slaughter.

The regulations also require slaughterhouses to remove specific risk material and parts that would contain 99 percent of any infection that would be present if the animal had BSE.

The FSA said heifer in question had these parts removed and these did not enter the food chain. Therefore, any risk to human health from consuming products derived from the heifer is extremely low, claims the FSA.

The regulator has confirmed the majority of the meat from the animal, which was slaughtered on 30 November at ABP Shrewsbury, was sold fresh to catering suppliers, with the remainder going for sale in retail packs. All of the meat has passed its use by date, even if frozen by the consumer, so no recall has been initiated.

A full investigation, with the cooperation of ABP Shrewsbury, into the circumstances of this incident has been launched.

Since the OTM BSE testing regime came into force in November 2005, about 400,000 cattle over thirty-months-old have been slaughtered in the UK for human consumption, according to the FSA.

The UK has been allowed to ship beef to the rest of the EU market since the bloc lifted a 10-year-old ban earlier in 2006. However, only live cattle born after 1 August 1996 can be exported, along with beef from cattle slaughtered after 15 June 2005. The EU has maintained a ban on UK for beef containing vertebral material and for beef sold on the bone.

The ban was lifted as cases of BSE dropped in the UK. Before the BSE crisis in 1986, the UK's beef exports were worth about £1bn (€1.5bn) compared to £20m (€29m) in 2004, according to Food from Britain, a consultancy.

The ban on the export of UK beef was issued in March 1996, due to the high incidence of BSE cases in the UK at the time.

Related topics Food safety & quality

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