More Illegal Meat Enters Food Chain
Published:  31 January, 2007

Investigations are underway into how a cow believed to have been born before 1 August 1996 entered the human food chain, The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said.

Meat from cattle born or reared in the UK before 1 August 1996 cannot be placed on the market - that is sold, supplied (whether or not in return for payment) or stored for supply.

The cow tested negative for BSE and specified risk material was removed, that is, those parts of the carcass that would contain more than 99% of any infectivity that would be present if the animal had BSE. Therefore, the Agency stressed that any risk to public health was low.

The cow in question is believed to have been misidentified as one born in May 1997 at a farm in Powys. This is supported by DNA test results received on 16 January 2007.

The animal was sent from the farm to Ensor's Abattoir Ltd, an abattoir in Gloucestershire that is approved to slaughter Over Thirty Month (OTM) cattle for human consumption. Although the cow was slaughtered on 19 October 2006, the possible identification error was not discovered until 12 December.

Meat from the cow was delivered to Jim Oliver Ltd's butcher's shop in Chepstow Road, Newport, south Wales, on 6 November. None of the meat remains at the shop and customers have been asked, via point-of-sale notices, to return any beef they bought from the premises between 6 November 2006 and 14 November 2006, and they will receive a refund.

Chairman of the National Beef Association (NBA), Duff Burrell, said: "If more care is not taken over the delivery of pre-August 1996 born cows to their correct outlet the UK could lose both its beef export markets and the best chance it has of encouraging more competitive bidding for its underpriced finished cattle."

He added the number of pre-August 96 born cows, forbidden to the food chain as part of the agreement with the European Commission which laid down conditions for the re-opening of the export market, turning up at commercial abattoirs has increased to levels which could soon attract the attention of EU inspectors.

FVO inspectors from the European Commission are visiting the UK in March to check UK export procedures and evidence that more care is being taken over the handling of cattle that can only go into the Older Cattle Disposal Scheme (OCDS) will be at the top of their list, Burrell said.