Food Law News - UK - 2003

FSA Press Release (2003/0364), 11 April 2003

BSE - FSA reports Specified Risk Material finds in imported meat

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) today announced further findings of Specified Risk Material (SRM) in imported intervention beef. SRM is that part of the animal most likely to contain BSE infectivity.

Under European Union (EU) 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 to enter the food supply, but only after being tested for BSE.

Spinal cord was found in 11 consignments of intervention beef from Spain and 3 from Germany during the period late January to mid-March 2003. With the exception of Spain, the trend in SRM breaches is now downwards.

In relation to these 14 cases, the animals were slaughtered in early 2001 and held in intervention cold stores, before being sent to the UK.

'Intervention' is a European Commission (EC) market support measure under which the EC buys, in this case, beef when market prices fall below a certain level. When market prices recover the EC releases the beef back onto the market.

The Agency has raised the issue of SRM in intervention beef at senior level within the EC and also hosted a delegation from Germany in December 2002. Changes to procedures in German plants have since resulted in a reduction in German SRM import breaches. Urgent discussions are now underway with Spanish officials and a delegation from Spain are due to visit the UK shortly. The matter will again be urgently raised with the EU Commission in Brussels. On FSA instructions, the MHS continues to check every notified consignment of imported (non-UK) carcass beef when it arrives at the cutting plant for the presence of SRM.

A further SRM breach has been identified relating to a finding of spleen, which is also classified as SRM, in a sheep carcass imported from the Republic of Ireland. The MHS discovered the breach on 24th March at Smithfield Market in London.

All the meat involved in these cases have been detained under the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations for disposal under the supervision of the MHS. The Chief Veterinary Officers in Spain, Germany and Ireland, and the European Commission have been notified of these latest breaches. In all 15 cases the receiving company in the UK was not responsible for the problem.

Full details of the intervention breaches are available on the FSA website

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