Bovine spinal cord is the part of an animal most likely to contain BSE infectivity and is therefore classified as specified risk material (SRM). Beef from Poland entering the European Union (EU) must meet EU standards, including the removal of SRM immediately after slaughter, before the beef is exported.
The first discovery was made on Monday 18 March 2002 in one forequarter out of 268 quarters of beef being unloaded at ADM Ltd, Eastbourne. The receiving company was not responsible for the problem. The beef was imported from Poland. The beef came from Sokolow S.A. Oddzial, in Kole, Poland. On Tuesday 19 March 2002 a second consignment of 238 beef quarters from a second meat plant in Poland being unloaded at ADM (UK) Ltd, Eastbourne was also found to contain one quarter carcass with spinal cord still attached. The receiving company was not responsible for the problem. The beef came from Zaklady Miense Bialystok, in Bialystok, Poland.
Imports of meat from Poland are subject to EU controls, and have to satisfy, among other requirements, EU controls on SRM, which require that spinal cord is removed in the slaughterhouse of origin.
Beef imports to the UK from Poland, for the 12 months to 30 November 2001, were 47 tonnes, which is equivalent to 0.005% of UK beef consumption (currently about 910,000 tonnes). These finds of SRM in imported beef are the 25th and 26th instances since 1 January 2001. They are the first ones to involve carcass beef from a non-EU country.
Food Standards Agency Veterinary Director Debby Reynolds, said: 'Any find of SRM is illegal and a serious matter. There is no risk to public health, as the affected meat has been removed from the food chain. I am grateful that the Meat Hygiene Service took prompt action to detain and destroy these two pieces of meat. These cases show the importance and effectiveness of the UK's strict controls. The breaches have been reported to the European Commission, which shares our view that the findings are not acceptable and that Poland must reinforce BSE controls immediately. This is a very important warning.'
The finds have also been notified to the veterinary authorities in Poland, which have taken swift action. Both Polish plants have had their authorisation to export beef suspended, and the Polish authorities are conducting an urgent review of controls in those plants.
Documents related to the consignments indicate that the meat was transported by road from Poland to the cross-Channel ferry at Ostend, and then to the UK. The meat was subject to border controls when it entered the EU. In both of these cases, the consignments entered the EU at the German Border Inspection Post (BIP) at Frankfurt-an-der-Oder. The documentation shows that the BIP carried out the documentation checks required by EU law.
The two beef quarters have been detained under the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations, pending inspection and disposal under the supervision of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS). The remainder of the two consignments was checked by the MHS and found to be in full compliance with the relevant legislation.