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The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin
"The contaminated German been originated from two states"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 January, 2001, 13:24 GMT
Germany tightens beef controls
Cows
Germany is already reeling from its mad cow crisis
Germany has toughened its export controls on beef after the seizure of thousands of kilos of German beef destined for human consumption in Northern Ireland.

The beef was seized at abattoir plants after officers carrying out checks on mad cow disease, or BSE, found spinal cord in two consignments.

Spinal cord is supposed to be taken out of meat from cattle aged over 12 months, as there is a risk it may carry the prion proteins thought to spread BSE.

German butcher
German consumer confidence has already been badly dented
The seizure prompted immediate action from Germany authorities, already struggling to contain a growing BSE scare provoked by the recent discovery of the disease in German herds.

The newly-expanded German ministry covering agriculture, food and consumer protection said controls prior to export had to be tightened after the Northern Ireland seizures.

A spokeswoman for the ministry said the contaminated beef originated from two states, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and North Rhine-Westfalia.

The authorities there had been informed of the problem and inspectors across Germany had been instructed to intensify all checks prior to the export of German beef, said the spokeswoman.

Destroyed

The BBC's Rob Broomby in Berlin says the incident is deeply embarrassing for Germany, coming just as a new minister, committed to putting the consumer first, has taken over.

The UK imports about 1,300 tonnes of beef carcasses from Germany each year.

The discovery of the contaminated meat is the first case of its kind in the UK. The consignments are likely to be destroyed.

Gary White,  meat company director
Gary White: NI controls are effective
Gary White, a director of the company which imported the meat, Eurostock Meat Marketing, said only a small portion of spinal cord was found during the search.

"From our point of view it was slightly unfortunate to think that it was not picked up in the member state from which it originated."

"Certainly if that had happened, we wouldn't have the current situation."

In the UK, an opposition agriculture spokesman, Tim Yeo, said he would be tabling parliamentary questions about how the German beef found its way into Britain.

He said: "It is a small relief that this consignment has been intercepted.

"But it does raise the question of how much of the beef that fails to meet the requirements set out in British controls is getting into the country."

The crisis over mad cow disease has forced the country's agriculture and health ministers to resign last week, prompting Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to announce the expansion of the agriculture department's powers, to take in consumer affairs.

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See also:

10 Jan 01 | Europe
Schroeder rebuilds cabinet team
05 Jan 01 | Europe
Europe's growing concern
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Germany 'could face BSE epidemic'
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