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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Call for tests on imported beef
The Soil Association calls for a comprehensive testing programme
All imported beef must be tested to ensure none with growth hormones is sold in the UK, says a consumer group.

The Soil Association's call came as a scientist on a government advisory committee voiced concerns that new research on hormones was being ignored.

John Verrall sits on the Veterinary Products Committee, which is to publish a report into hormone-treated meat.

Danish research suggests growth hormone residues may be more damaging to babies and children than previously thought.

Mr Verrall, the consumer representative on the VPC, has written a response to the report and pressure group the Food Ethics Council has published it on their website.

His document claims the VPC report ignores "clear evidence of the risk to human health posed by these hormones" but acknowledges it does adopt a cautious approach to the issue.

Both the VPC and the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs said it would be inappropriate to comment on the claims before the publication of the committee's latest report later this week.

Samples taken

The European Union has banned the use of growth or sex hormones in cattle since 1982, and imports of such meat are prohibited.

But cattle from many countries outside the EU, including the US and Canada, are given both naturally occurring and synthetic hormones to boost the amount of top-quality beef the animals produce.

We are not saying British consumers are eating dangerous meat at the moment but we need to make sure they are not
Richard Young, Soil Association

Some scientists argue that because these substances have no effect if swallowed, then they should not pose any health risk to humans eating animals whose flesh has been treated in this way.

A Defra spokesman said its most recent test results show that no traces of two of the most common hormones, trenbolone and zeranol, were found among samples taken in 2003 and 2004.

The Danish study concerns a different hormone, oestradiol, and suggests its use could bring forward puberty in girls and raise the risk of genital abnormalities in boys.

The Soil Association, which opposes the use of hormones in farming, is calling for a comprehensive testing programme of all imported beef.

"We are not saying British consumers are eating dangerous meat at the moment but we need to make sure they are not," policy adviser Richard Young told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme.

EU says science backs its beef ban
15 Oct 03 |  Business

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