Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA Press Release (2002/0279), 22 November 2002

BSE - Spinal cord found in Spanish beef

Spinal cord has been found in a mixed consignment of beef imported into the UK from Spain.

Bovine spinal cord is classified as specified risk material (SRM) and is therefore among those parts of the animal most likely to contain BSE infectivity. Under European law, SRM must be removed immediately after slaughter, stained, and disposed of safely. In addition only cattle under 30 months in the UK are permitted to enter the food chain. Other EU states allow cattle over 30 months, but only after being tested for BSE.

The SRM breach was discovered during an inspection by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) on 16 November. Two beef hindquarters out of a mixed consignment of 248 hindquarters were found to contain spinal cord. The breach involved intervention beef, from animals slaughtered in February 2001 at two different plants in Spain and held in a Spanish cold store.

In the first case we understand the animal was slaughtered in Escorxador Sabadell, S.A. in Barcelona. The second case involved an animal slaughtered in Escorxador Del Girones, S.A. in Gerona. Both were then held in a cold store in Lerida - Frigorificos Urgel, S.A. The consignment was unloaded at Wholesale Meat Supply Ltd in Blackburn. The receiving company was not responsible for the problem.

This is the 38th SRM breach found in imported beef since 1 January 2001 and the second case involving Spanish beef. This is also the ninth case (the first involving Spain) of SRM being found in imported intervention beef in the past three months.

The Food Standards Agency took up the issue of SRM in ex-intervention beef with the European Commission last month. As a result the Commission has instructed all EU Member States selling intervention beef to ensure that all spinal cord is removed before release.

In view of the continuing problems over intervention beef, the Agency has again written to the Beef Management Committee at the European Commission, requesting the Committee to discuss, at the earliest possible time, the practical problems involved in inspecting spinal cord in frozen carcasses.

The two beef hindquarters involved in this latest case have been detained under the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations for disposal under the supervision of the MHS. The rest of the two consignments were checked by the MHS and found to be in full compliance with the relevant legislation. The Deputy Director General at the Spanish Food Safety Agency and the European Commission have been notified of this breach.

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