Food Law News - UK - 2003

FSA Press Release (2003/0356), 31 March 2003

BSE - Agency investigates breaches of SRM controls on imported cattle slaughtered in UK

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is investigating reported breaches of Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls involving the removal of vertebral column from live cattle imported into the UK from the Republic of Ireland.

In most EC member states, including the Republic of Ireland, vertebral column in cattle aged over 12 months is SRM. However, in the UK this only applies to cattle aged over 30 months with cattle under that age allowed to enter the food chain with vertebral column (beef on the bone).

The risk to public health from this is extremely low. There have never been any BSE cases reported in the Republic of Ireland in cattle aged under 30 months. All the cattle involved were under 30 months of age.

However, it remains a breach of EC rules and urgent action has been taken to inform all Official Veterinary Surgeons at licensed abattoirs of the importance of strictly complying with the requirement to remove vertebral column in non-UK cattle aged over 12 months. The Agency is investigating how these breaches took place and whether further actions are required.

The breaches, as reported by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), involve 17 cattle aged over 12 months but under 30 months, imported live into the UK from Ireland. All the animals were slaughtered between 23 January and 21 March 2003 and in each case the carcass had been health marked as being fit for human consumption without the vertebral column having been removed, a breach of EC regulations.

Of the 17 cattle, 15 carcasses had already been released for human consumption and sold to retail butchers. It has not been possible to trace the meat for recall. But arrangements have been made for the vertebral column to be removed from the remaining two carcasses.

The following notes are also included:

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