The Meat Hygiene Service - on behalf of the Food Standards Agency - is investigating a failure of the BSE controls.

The failure, at an abattoir in Devon, was detected during a routine audit by the State Veterinary Service on Monday (18th December). It involved a single sheep. Pieces of spinal cord were found in the carcase after it had been health-marked as fit for human consumption. The Official Veterinary Surgeon involved has been stood down pending the results of further investigation.

The carcase has been destroyed, eliminating any possibility that it might enter the food chain.  Investigations to date indicate that this was an isolated incident.

Spinal cord is classified as Specified Risk Material (SRM) in cattle and sheep - material most likely to harbour BSE infectivity. By law, it must be removed at slaughter and disposed of in a controlled way.