Spinal cord is on the list of specified risk material (SRM) which, under EU law, must be removed from cattle aged over 12 months immediately after slaughter. EU-wide SRM controls came into force throughout Europe on 1st October last year.
The discovery was made today (1 March) in two consignments of imported beef. Both consignments have been detained by the Meat Hygiene Service and the affected material will be destroyed. They consisted of:
Certification states that the carcases were under 30 months of age, and therefore abided by the UK rules which prohibits the entry into the food chain of cattle over 30 months of age (the OTM rule).
Suzi Leather, Deputy Chair of the FSA said:
"None of this meat will get anywhere near the food chain and shows the importance of robust inspection systems. Both the MHS and local authorities have been vigilant in ensuring that BSE controls are being enforced. We are investigating the abattoirs that are the source of these breaches and will be informing the relevant enforcement authorities to ensure 100% targeting of these abattoirs until we can be sure they are abiding by EU rules. There is likely to be an increase in imported meat because of the foot and mouth outbreak and we need to ensure continued consumer protection from potential health risks, particularly those associated with BSE. That is why, earlier today, the FSA issued instructions for increased checks on imported meat. This stepped up action will apply to imported meat as an emergency measure and is a sensible precaution."
The Food Standards Agency issued instructions last night to local authorities and this morning to the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) to step up checks on imported meat arriving at licensed meat cutting plants in England, Scotland and Wales.
This action is in anticipation of a possible increase in imported beef because of the current foot and mouth outbreak. Much of the increase is expected to come from countries affected by BSE, particularly those that have experienced a recent drop in demand and a steep fall in prices.
The MHS, an Executive Agency of the Food Standards Agency, is responsible for enforcing meat hygiene regulations and BSE controls in licensed abattoirs and meat cutting plants. It has been instructed by the Agency to review the inspection needs that may arise in meat plants from any increase in imported fresh beef.
MHS staff will check:
German beef will continue to be subject to 100% inspection in licensed cutting plants.
In addition to the instructions to the MHS, local authorities are also being asked to step up their work. In particular, they are being asked to target additional Over Thirty Month and SRM checks in businesses on a risk-assessed basis.
All beaches of SRM controls on imported meat from the EU are reported to the European Commission who have responsbility for ensuring the control measures are enforced. In addition, the breaches are reported to the appropriate government authorities in the relevant countries.