Spinal cord has been found in beef imported from Belgium 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 Thursday (29 November) in five out of 196 quarters of beef being unloaded at ADM Ltd, Eastbourne. The receiving company was not responsible for the problem. The beef came from Vleesgroothandel, NV Dierickx, Zele, Belgium.

The quarters of beef have been detained under the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) Regulations pending possible inspection by the Belgian 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 Belgium and the European Commission have been notified of this breach.

The name of the Belgian 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 Belgium there were only 20 positive tests out of 242,956 animals tested between January and September this year.