Pieces of spinal cord have been found in the neck vertebrae of 41 forequarters of beef imported from Italy.
Spinal cord is included in the list of specified risk material (SRM) that is thought to be at greatest risk of carrying BSE infectivity. Under EU rules, it must be removed when the animal is slaughtered.
The latest discovery, yesterday (Tuesday), was made at Great Harwood Food Products, a meat cutting plant near Blackburn, Lancashire, where quantities of spinal cord were found in two quarters of a consignment of importedSpanish beef on 9th March this year.
Yesterday's consignment comprised 204 forequarters - weighing a total of 25,191 kilograms - all confirmed as being from animals under 30 months of age. Great Harwood Food Products were unaware of the problem until they started unpacking the consignment.
The meat was detained by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS). A further 13 forequarters found lying at the bottom of the container were so grossly contaminated that they have been condemned. The rest of the load was found to comply with statutory requirements, and has been released for further processing. The meat originated from Industria Carni SNC, di Pasquettaz Martino e figli, Via Nazionale 9, 10010 Carema, Torino, Italy.
The Food Standards Agency alerted all local authorities in February, after earlier findings of spinal cord in German and Dutch beef by the MHS. The Agency is sending to all local authorities details of the Italian abattoir involved in this latest incident, so that inspections can be targeted on any future consignments from that abattoir.
The MHS continues to monitor the volume of beef imports, and is increasing its staffing levels at meat cutting plants where necessary. Details of this breach have been given to the Italian Embassy in London for forwarding to the relevant authorities in Italy. The Agency looks to the Italian authorities to suspend the licence of this abattoir, given that it is clearly currently unable to meet the requirements of EU law.