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FSA notified of BSE control breaches

05 March 2013

The FSA has been notified of a series of BSE control breaches that took place last year. The risk to human health is said to be ‘very low’ as it is very unlikely that any of the animals would have been infected.

On 5 July 2012, during a routine inspection at London Central Markets (Smithfield), a goat carcass with spleen attached was discovered. Goat spleen is specified risk material (SRM) and must be removed at the slaughterhouse. SRM consists of the parts of the animal most likely to carry BSE infection.

In a statement, the FSA said: “The goat was in a consignment of 41 goat and kid carcasses slaughtered at Profoods bvba, a slaughterhouse in Antwerp, Belgium. There were also a significant number of hygiene issues with the consignment. All of the carcasses were detained and none of the meat entered the food supply. There was no public health risk resulting from this incident.”

On 1 October 2012, the FSA was informed by the Belgian authorities that consignments of beef that may have contained meat from six cattle over 72 months of age, which were not tested for BSE, had been exported to the UK. At the time it was mandatory for all cattle slaughtered for human consumption and aged over 72 months to have a negative BSE test result.
The untested cattle were slaughtered at Slachtgroep Leieland (BE185), an abattoir in Harelbeke, Belgium. Meat from the consignments associated with the untested animals was sent to three businesses in the UK. Investigations revealed that most had already been sold to the final consumer and been eaten, but 11 pallets of meat were traced to a UK coldstore and subsequently destroyed.

The FSA said it is ‘very unlikely’ that any of the untested animals would have been infected with BSE. Belgium has not reported a case since 2006. In addition, the SRM had been removed so any risk to human health is extremely low.

On 7 December 2012, during a routine inspection by Food Standards Agency staff at Simply Halal (Banham) Ltd, a combined slaughterhouse and cutting premises in Norfolk, it was discovered that 25 beef quarters had left the premises without the vertebral column being removed.

Simply Halal sold the quarters to a meat wholesaler. The wholesaler's records were incomplete and, as a result it was only possible to trace and detain one of the quarters - which was destroyed. According to the FSA: “It is probable that meat from all the other quarters was consumed.

“The quarters were from cattle over 30 months of age. The vertebral column of cattle over 30 months is specified risk material (SRM) and must be removed. The risk from the meat that entered the food chain is very low, as it is extremely unlikely that any of the animals involved had BSE. Only three cases of BSE were recorded in the UK in 2012. None of these animals entered the food chain.”

Meat from a cow over 72 months of age entered the food chain without being tested for BSE. The animal, aged 73 months and 4 days, was slaughtered on 11 October 2012, at Woolley Bros (Wholesale Meats) Ltd, a combined abattoir and cutting plant in Sheffield. The error was discovered on 4 December 2012 during routine cross-checks of slaughter and BSE testing data.

According to regulations any cattle that have not been tested, along with the animal slaughtered immediately before it and the two immediately after should not enter the food supply.

The four affected carcasses were sold as part of consignment of 90 beef sides to a food business operator in the Netherlands. In addition, cheek meat from the same batch of animals was sold to a business in Germany. No meat from the animals entered the UK food supply and the Agency notified the Dutch and German authorities of the breach of controls and that meat from the affected animals had entered their countries.

The FSA concluded: “It should be noted that since 1 March 2013 there is no longer a requirement to test healthy slaughtered cattle over 72 months of age for BSE before they enter the food supply.”


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