BSE safety measures “beefed up”

The government has unveiled extra safeguards to ensure cattle that may be infected with BSE do not enter the food chain.

Agriculture Minister Jim Paice announced today that he has written to the 18,000 keepers of animals born or reared in the UK before 1 August 1996 to inform them of the new movement restrictions being placed on them.

These additional controls were introduced after an illegal trade in these animals was discovered – and the move has been welcomed by the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

Since the BSE crisis of the mid-1990s, it has been illegal to slaughter pre-1996 animals for food, and specified risk material, such as brain and spinal cord, is removed from all animals after they are killed. Plus, all cattle aged over four years are tested for BSE after slaughter and only those found to be negative are allowed into the food chain.

But last month, a cattle dealer in Cumbria was jailed for 10 months for sending an over-age animal to slaughter for food and deliberately seeking to alter its identity to make it eligible for human consumption. The offence was spotted by an abattoir vet and reported to trading standards officials.

Harvey Locke, president of the BVA, said: “It is unfortunate that the illegal activities of a few individuals have caused Defra to introduce these additional measures, but we strongly welcome the initiative. BSE had a devastating effect on the UK’s livestock industry, but it has been successfully brought under control by strict adherence to the legislation.

“The additional controls announced today will only affect a small number of owners, but will ensure that our safety measures against BSE remain robust.”

Agriculture minister Jim Paice said: “The industry has worked hard over the years to ensure British beef regained the good reputation it deserves, both home and abroad. We want to maintain this reputation so it is sensible to introduce the extra safeguard.

“It should not have much impact on most cattle keepers but it will give us additional confidence that these animals do not enter the food chain.”

>> Raise BSE testing age, call farmers

>> BSE all but eradicated

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