Spinal cord has been found in beef imported from The Netherlands into the UK. Bovine spinal cord is classified as specified risk material (SRM) and is therefore among those parts of the animal most likely to contain BSE infectivity. Under European law, SRM must be removed immediately after slaughter, stained, and disposed of safely.

The discovery was made on Wednesday (24 October) in one out of 240 quarters of beef being unloaded at Cumberland Meat Packers Ltd, Coventry. The receiving company was not responsible for the problem. The beef came from Kroot Vlees BV, of Tilburg, The Netherlands.

The quarter of beef has been detained under the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations pending possible inspection by the Dutch authorities and subsequent disposal under the supervision of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS). The rest of the consignment was checked by the MHS and found to be in full compliance with the relevant legislation. The Chief Veterinary Officer of The Netherlands and the European Commission have been notified of this breach.

The name of the Dutch abattoir concerned will be added to the list of European abattoirs from which beef containing spinal cord has been imported into the UK.

While SRM is among those parts of the animal most likely to contain BSE infectivity, the results so far of BSE tests conducted on healthy cattle across the EU have been described as encouraging, tending to indicate that there is no massive, hidden BSE epidemic in Europe. In The Netherlands there were only four positive tests out of 239,248 animals tested between January and August this year.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

  1. The following table gives cumulative figures for the numbers of healthy cattle tested for BSE from January to August 2001, across all EU Member States. It does not include BSE suspect animals (those reported as BSE suspects) nor "at risk" animals (defined as those found dead-on-farm; emergency slaughtered animals, and those sent for normal slaughter but found to be sick at ante-mortem inspection). Adult cattle are defined as those aged 24 months or over.

RESULTS OF BSE TESTING IN THE EU, January to August 2001
(Healthy animals only)

COUNTRY ADULT CATTLE
(MILLIONS)
NO. OF HEALTHY
ANIMALS TESTED
OF WHICH NO. OF
POSITIVES
(PENDING)
Belgium 1.5 206,866 17
Denmark 0.9 152,840 1
Germany 6.6 1,402,601 24
Greece 0.3 8,889 1
Spain 3.4 171,493 26
France 11.0 1,389,000 39
Republic of Ireland 3.4 244,411 15
Italy 3.4 180,860 16
Luxembourg 0.1 13,954 0
Netherlands 1.8 239,248 4
Austria 1.0 127,458 0
Portugal 0.8 12,383 2 (31 pending)
Finland 0.4 3,717 0
Sweden 0.7 409 0
United Kingdom 5.3 530 (GB only) 0
TOTAL 40.8 4,154,659 145 (31 pending)

Source: http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/bse/testing/bse_results_en.html