A knock out blow for BSE campaign?

Regulation, regulation, regulation. It seems to be all we're hearing of late.

The industry is crying out that it's over regulated, while governments and bureaucrats sharpen their pencils in anticipation of further rules, laws and controls. From discrimination laws to environmental restrictions, the industry has more than its fair share of red-tape.

Once again, BSE is back on the agenda - in alm ost the same week the industry started calling for a relaxation of the controls on BSE, Dunbia was forced to recall meat products after a cow was wrongly identified as being under thirty months and slaughtered without being tested for BSE.

Regardless of who is to blame for the fiasco, (and interestingly, the Association of Meat Inspectors flagged up concerns on this issue at their conference back in September) the timing really could not have been worse. While the risk to public health was described as "relatively low" by food safety bosses, that is unlikely to be given a huge amount of attention by the food-scare orientated mainstream press.

On top of this body blow comes a further smack in the chops for the sector, with the announcement from a leading academic and scientist that more, not less, testing is needed when it comes to BSE.

While ordinarily the industry might be able to dismiss and pooh-pooh his views, pointing to its excellent track record on controls and testing over the last few years, the incident in Northern Ireland simply serves to undermine this claim. When it comes to food safety, perception is more than 50% of the battle, and if the industry is looking for a reduction in regulation, any slip-up, no matter how small or inconsequential, is going to count against it.

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