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The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"Spinal cords must be removed from cattle aged over 12 months"
 real 56k

Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 20:58 GMT
Beef seized in BSE checks
Inspections of meat
The meat was discovered by anti-BSE enforcement officers
Thousands of kilos of beef destined for the food chain have been impounded by enforcement officers carrying out anti-BSE controls in Northern Ireland.

The Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland said the German beef had been seized at two abattoir cutting plants in Newry, County Down, after spinal cord was discovered in two consignments on Wednesday.

It is the first discovery of its kind in the UK. The affected material is likely to be destroyed.

Spinal cord is on the list of specified risk material, which, under EU law, must be removed from cattle aged over 12 months immediately after slaughter.

Importance of controls

The agency's director in Northern Ireland, Morris McAllister, said none of the meat would be allowed anywhere near the human food chain.

Mr McAllister also said it showed the importance of robust BSE controls.

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

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.

"It proves, however, that the controls we have in place in Northern Ireland are effective."

He added that the meat had never been intended for the market in Northern Ireland or elsewhere throughout the UK.

Tim Yeo
Tim Yeo: Questions in parliament
The discovery of banned spinal cord in 41 tonnes, although relatively small, is significant.

Earlier this week, ministers were accused of ignoring the risk posed to consumers from cheap foreign imports of older beef products made from cattle deemed to be at a higher risk of BSE.

It is understood that the consignment discovered in Newry was certified as under 30 months old.

Shadow agriculture minister 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."

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See also:

05 Jan 01 | Europe
Europe's growing concern
15 Jan 01 | Europe
Germany 'could face BSE epidemic'
14 Jan 01 | Europe
'First mad cow case' from Austria
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