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May 23, 2002

UK: Sausage skin ban on fears of BSE in sheep?

The UK’s food watchdog the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommended a Europe-wide ban on sausage casings made from lamb intestines yesterday [Wednesday] due to the hypothetical risk that BSE exists in sheep. Any such ban would seriously affect the premium sausage industry, as one in six sausages are encased in lambskin rather than collagen skins.

The UK’s food watchdog the Food Standards Agency (FSA) recommended a Europe-wide ban on sausage casings made from lamb intestines yesterday [Wednesday] due to the hypothetical risk that BSE exists in sheep.

Any such ban would seriously affect the premium sausage industry, as one in six sausages are encased in lambskin rather than collagen skins.

Sausage industry representatives have slammed the proposal. Bob Harder, a committee member of the Natural Sausage Casing Association, calculated that any ban would lead to 15,000 redundancies in the EU, and cost the sheep and sausages industries around £6.5m and £60m a year, respectively.

“They are cherry-picking one item,” he told the Daily Telegraph: “[BSE] would be present in much greater amounts in the brain and lymph nodes of muscle such as leg of lamb, both of which are not banned.”

FSA chairman, Sir John Krebs, did stress that the proposal was not synonymous with a suggestion that consumers should avoid eating lamb, mutton or goat: “No sheep alive today are likely to have been exposed to any original source of (BSE) infectivity,” he said: “[But] the theoretical risk that BSE could be present in sheep by virtue of transmission, and masked by scrapie, remains.”

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