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Saturday, December 6, 1997 Published at 06:17 GMT


Deadline set for beef ban
image: [ Sales of beef-on-the-bone will be illegal in Britain from December 16 ]
Sales of beef-on-the-bone will be illegal in Britain from December 16

The sale of beef-on-the bone will be illegal in Britain from December 16, the British Agriculture Minister announced on Friday.

A consultation letter setting out the terms and conditions for de-boning beef has been sent to interested organisations and the consultation period will end on December 12.

The move follows fears that infected bone marrow could transmit 'mad cow' disease to humans.

In a statement, Dr Jack Cunningham said: "I have acted swiftly within the powers I have to protect the public.

"I am determined to act on the best scientific advice in the interest of public safety and to restore consumer confidence in British beef."

"This measure has the support of consumers, who recognise that my priority is their protection. The Meat and Livestock Commission and National Farmers' Union have also welcomed it."

Dr Cunningham also reiterated his intention to ensure that all meat imported into Britain from European member states meet high standards.

Ireland joins beef-on-bone ban

The Irish government announced on Friday that it would follow Britain's lead and is recommending an end to sales of beef-on-the-bone.

[ image: Irish Health Minister, Brian Cowen]
Irish Health Minister, Brian Cowen
The Irish Health Minister, Brian Cowen, said he was acting "in the interest of the public health," and called on butchers to de-bone meat, although he added that the risk of contracting the disease was "very low".

The Irish decision has been issued as advice to the meat industry and does not amount to a formal ban.

Dublin made the recommendation based on the same report by British experts that led to Tony Blair's Government making the banning order.

The British research showed that mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE) was found in cattle bone.

A statement from the Irish Health Department said: "Whilst recognising that the risk to the consumer is extremely low, as an additional precautionary measure, the minister wishes to advise that until this issue can be more fully investigated, no beef with the backbone attached should be sold to the consumer.

"The most practical method of ensuring this is for retail butchers to remove any backbone from beef before sale."

The statement said that Irish BSE controls are substantially different from those in Britain and involve the slaughter and destruction of the complete herd in which a BSE case is found as well as the slaughter of cohort animals.

Ireland has had 260 cases of BSE since January 1989.

A spokeswoman for the Irish Health Department said: "The 260 cases since 1989 should be seen in the context of the fact that 27 million cattle passed through the Irish system during the nine years involved."

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