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

Phelim O'Neill of the Livestock and Meat Commission
"Controls on imported meat are working"
 real 28k

Friday, 19 January, 2001, 09:16 GMT
Contaminated beef inquiry call
Inspections of meat
The meat was discovered by anti-BSE enforcement officers
The European Commission has been urged to launch an investigation into the discovery of contaminated German beef in Northern Ireland.

Forty-one thousand kilos of beef destined for the food chain were impounded by enforcement officers carrying out anti-BSE controls in the province.

The beef was seized at two abattoir cutting plants in Newry, County Down, on Wednesday after remnants of spinal cord was discovered in two consignments.


The controls we have in place in Northern Ireland are effective

Gary White, Eurostock Meat Marketing

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

The director of the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland, Morris McAllister, said the find raised questions about BSE controls in Germany.

"We have asked, as an agency, the European Commission to investigate the matter," he said.

"We have asked the German authorities to investigate the matter and once we have got the results of their investigations then we will know exactly how robust and effective the checks are in Germany."

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.

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

Gary White,  meat company director
Gary White: NI controls are effective

Mr McAllister, said none of the meat would be allowed anywhere near the human food chain.

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

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.

Tim Yeo
Tim Yeo: Questions in parliament

"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.

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.

Shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo said he would be tabling parliamentary questions about how the German beef found its way into Britain.

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See also:

18 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Beef seized in BSE checks
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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