Beef on bone banned over CJD fears
Chefs say ban is ridiculous
Doubts about pet food
Tests on infected cattle led to decision
MAFF statement on BSE and bones in the Commons
Growing militancy by cattle farmers
Prof.Lacey: "too little, too late"
Scientists' warning over certain beef cuts
Beef ban stuns farmers
Vampire calves OK in UK
Meat irradiation questions
Anglo-Irish talks in bid to end beef blockade
Chefs take stock as customers refuse to swallow scare stories
Shoppers rush to buy banned cuts of beef
Help planned for farms hit by beef ban
December 4 1997 BY PHILIP WEBSTER AND ROBIN YOUNG
The move dealt a fresh blow to a farming industry that was slowly recovering from the "mad cow" disease crisis, and brought gloom to butchers, cooks and families looking forward to a Christmas joint. They accused the Government of a panic reaction.
Announcing the decision in the Commons, the Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham, said that the ban was being imposed "on a strictly precautionary basis" after scientists advised that there was a very small chance that "mad cow" disease - or BSE - could be spread through bone or bone marrow. BSE has been linked to a new variant of the human disease CJD that has killed more than 20 people.
Dr Cunningham said: "This action will ensure that UK consumers continue to be given the highest protection possible against the risks from BSE." But industry leaders and some opposition MPs expressed anxiety that it could hit public confidence in beef and British hopes of getting the EU's export ban lifted.
The decision means that all beef from cattle over six months old - whether from British or overseas farms - will have to be taken off the bone before it is sold to the consumer. The bones can be taken out in shops, catering establishments or other commercial premises, but must not be used in the preparation of food, sold or even given away to people saying they want them for their dogs.
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food officials aim to rush legislation through the Commons by the end of January. Retailers cannot be compelled to remove bone-in beef from their shelves before then, but the ministry said: "We hope that they may decide voluntarily not to stock the meat." By yesterday lunchtime, supermarkets had withdrawn bone-in joints from their cabinets and restaurants had taken T-bone steaks off their menus.
The effect of the ban will be not only to remove ribs, T-bone steaks, oxtails and possibly even oxtail soups from the shelves, but also to restrict products based on meat extract and beef bone stock - including Bovril and Oxo cubes. The ban could also extend to products containing beef gelatine, such as jellies and some confectionery. The makers of Oxo and Bovril, have always said that all the beef they use is 100 per cent safe and that it comes from BSE-free countries. Nevertheless, the ministry said: "If those products contain beef bones, British or imported, they will be affected."
Dr Cunningham made his announcement hours after receiving a report from the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, which calculated that six animals this year and three next - out of 2.2 million cattle slaughtered each year - could be at risk of infection.
The committee had suggested that the Government had three options: release the information and let consumers decide; to ban the sale of beef on the bone from cattle aged over 24 months, or to impose a blanket ban.
After consulting the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, Dr Cunningham adopted the most draconian, feeling that to have allowed the sale of bone-in cuts from younger cattle would have been confusing. He told MPs that he had acted "because it would not be acceptable to allow tissues shown to transmit BSE to remain within the human food chain". He knew the move would be a disappointment to beef producers, but said he was acting "firmly and rapidly to protect consumer confidence, which is in the fundamental interests of the beef industry".
Tony Blair had earlier hinted that beef farmers would be compensated when he told the Commons: "We will do everything we can to mitigate the problems they face."
The National Farmers' Union described the development as another body blow, but accepted that public health considerations had to be paramount. The president, Sir David Naish, said: "This ought to add to consumer confidence."
Michael Jack, the Shadow Agriculture Minister, also supported any moves to make British beef safer, although he said that Dr Cunningham's announcement "will be of very great concern to the quality butchering trade".
But the decision annoyed chefs who described it as a panic measure and a knee-jerk reaction. Michel Roux said:
"The ban is quite pointless and ridiculous. It will destroy confidence in beef all over again. It is a real shame for food lovers everywhere." Raymond Blanc said: "This enrages me. Banning beef on the bone is like banning tomatoes from cooking. It will put a stop to tradition."
The food writer Digby Anderson was appalled at the imposition of a blanket ban without consultation: "They are perfectly entitled to issue us with a warning or recommendation but how dare they remove the choice? If people want beef on the bone or stock cubes then they should have them, it should be up to them."
Although less than 5 per cent of beef is sold on the bone, the proportion is much higher for sales from high quality butchers serving cooks who believe that meat cooked on the bone tastes best. The announcement comes just as they are preparing for their peak period and will disappoint many families planning to buy joints for Christmas.
Gordon Hepburn, chairman of the Guild of Q Butchers, said: "The timing of this is dreadful. We were just getting in ribs of beef and sirloins on the bone to have them nicely matured for Christmas. Now apparently they have put the nail in that.
"Ribs and sirloins on the bone are not usually big sellers, but for Christmas we usually have customers coming from all over - sometimes for whole sets of ribs and joints up to 16lbs. That is an important bit of business that will now be lost to us."
December 4 1997 BY ROBIN YOUNG AND KATHRYN KNIGHTTOP restaurants and high-class butchers are likely to be hardest hit by the ban on beef bones in food preparation. Though less than 5 per cent of beef is sold on the bone in Britain, the proportion is much higher for sales from high-quality independent butchers. Cooks insist that beef cooked on the bone, which is the traditional British way of roasting, produces meat that is much better flavoured and more juicy.
Leading restaurants buy almost all their beef on the bone and use bones to make the stock that is the basis of their sauces. Now they will no longer be able to use bones in that way, serve oxtail, or produce classic dishes ý la moelle (with beef marrow).
Michel Roux, chef of the Michelin two-star restaurant Le Gavroche in London, said: "I buy all my Angus sirloins on the bone. We have until now occasionally been featuring marrow dishes on our menu, telling customers exactly what they are but giving them the opportunity to eat what is one of the traditional delicacies. This is a very sad day. I think the ban is quite pointless and ridiculous. It will destroy confidence in beef all over again, and the Government should be making it clear that the best British beef is perfectly safe."
Frances Bissell, The Times cook, said: "I was just going to order my big rib of beef for Christmas, and I have been using marrow bones as recently as the day before yesterday. There is no doubt that beef cooks best on the bone, but if it is not safe on the bone where do you stop? All meat has been on bones. How far back from the bone do you have to go to be safe?"
Beefeater restaurants announced the immediate withdrawal of T-bone steaks from its outlets even before Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister, made his announcement in the Commons.
Laurence Isaacson, a director of Groupe Chez Gerard, which has five steak houses in London, and the founder of the Carnivores Club, said: "Ninety-seven per cent of our beef is already bought off the bone and if the Government says we cannot sell our cÙtes de boeuf, the only meat we serve on the bone, then obviously we will not. We are convinced that British beef has never been safer, and our sales for beef now are higher than they were before the BSE scare."
Many chefs suggested using chicken stock as a lighter alternative to beef, and said that adding ingredients such as red wine to the juice of steaks could create a rich sauce without using beef stock.
Tom Aiken, from London's Pied a Terre restaurant, where oxtail ravioli was removed from the menu yesterday, said: "Again it seems we have to toe the line with yet another scare. We will have to learn to enjoy our sirloins more. Luckily, we have always used chicken stock as we find it lighter so I suggest others do the same."
Michel Bourdin, head chef at the Connaught Grill, spoke of a "gastronomic tragedy". "It will mean the very end of the dish the English do best. The only way to cook the best beef is on the bone. This ban affects far too much."
Egon Ronay said: "It is irresponsible to put out a scare like this without quoting exact data, for example data that it has caused this terrible illness. I am really angry about it because they are scaring the public without giving enough detail."
By contrast, the effect on supermarkets will be very slight. A typical Safeway store in London yesterday had precisely one joint of bone-in beef on its shelves, and Tony Combes, the company's head of public affairs, said: "Bone-in beef represents less than 1 per cent of our sales. If the Government requires we will take our wing rib beef off the bone and sell it at the same price."
Marks & Spencer said that it had no beef on the bone for sale, though it had been planning to sell wing rib joints on the bone for Christmas. That has been cancelled.
Tesco said last night that it had already withdrawn from sale all beef on the bone, and that it would give customers who had purchased any a full refund.
A spokesman for Hazlewood Foods said that the company would not now be including a frozen oxtail dish in a premium range prepared to recipes by the television chef Gary Rhodes, which had been announced last week for introduction in February next year.
December 4 1997 TimesMAKERS of pet food were unsure yesterday of whether the Government's ban on the sale of beef on the bone would mean that they would have to withdraw products containing bone marrow.
Barbara Shaw, spokeswoman for the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association, said that its members exercised strict quality controls, including factory floor inspections by vets, to ensure that only raw materials fit for human consumption were used in the production of pet food. She added: "We are adopting a cautious stance until there is a thorough review of all the evidence."
December 4 1997 BY NIGEL HAWKESTHE results that persuaded the Government to ban beef on the bone come from experiments in which cattle were deliberately infected with large doses of BSE in their feed. Tissues were tested for infectivity at different periods after infection.
The infected cattle were slaughtered in groups of three at four-month intervals after infection and tissues tested by injection into the brains of mice. The objective was to establish if they carried the BSE infective agent before the cattle showed any symptoms of the disease.
The latest experiments, which form the basis of the new advice from the Government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), showed that two tissues previously not excluded might be infectious - the dorsal root ganglia found within the bones of the spine, and the bone marrow. The ganglia are nerve branches emerging from the spinal cord and within the bone, which would normally be found only in beef sold "on the bone".
The ganglia were found to be infectious in cattle 32 months after infection with BSE but not in animals 26 months after infection. Clinical signs did not develop in these animals until 35 months after infection. That means there is a three-month gap in which these organs, from apparently healthy cattle, might pass on the disease.
To play safe, the advisory body has assumed that infectivity may be present earlier, seven months before symptoms appear. Under present slaughter policies, a very few cattle incubating the disease may enter the food chain: six this year and three in 1998.
The risk that this may cause any cases of human CJD is very low. SEAC estimates only a 5 per cent chance of a single case next year. Professor John Pattison, chairman of SEAC, said that the experiments, carried out at the Central Veterinary Laboratory at Weybridge, Surrey, had failed to find any infectivity in muscles or blood.
MAFF Statement on BSE: 3 DECEMBER 1997
"With permission, Madam Speaker, I would like to make a statement on BSE.
The first priority of this Government is protection of the consumer. I am making this announcement in response to the latest advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), which met yesterday, 2 December, and to outline the action which I intend to take on a strictly precautionary basis.
Madam Speaker, I shall be publishing SEAC's advice in full, and a copy has been placed in the Library of the House.
SEAC has reviewed new evidence which will be published in the scientific literature in due course. This evidence has emerged from an experiment designed to re-check which parts of cattle may contain BSE infectivity. Under these experimental conditions, in which animals were fed large doses of BSE by mouth, my scientists have found infectivity in nervous tissues called the dorsal root ganglia which lie within the bones of the spinal column and would be left with the bone when meat is cut off the spine. The dorsal root ganglia are not currently covered by the specified bovine material (SBM) restrictions.
Further new findings which are still being evaluated indicate that infectivity may also be found in the bone marrow in cattle which are at a very late stage of disease and are already showing clinical symptoms.
In both cases the experimental animals showed the infectivity only at ages over 30 months (above which all cattle are excluded from the food chain and destroyed under the Over Thirty Month Scheme) and only after receiving a heavy dose of infected bovine tissue. In any case consumers would not normally eat dorsal root ganglia as such. Muscle, meat and blood are tested at every stage of the same experiments. to date all results have been negative.
SEAC has emphasised that the risk is very small. The committee has suggested that there are three possible alternative courses of action.
First, to make public the research findings, together with their assessment of the risk, and to leave individual consumers to choose what precautions to take.
Second, to require that no beef with the bone in from cattle over 6 months old should be sold to the consumer.
Third to require that cattle slaughtered between 24 and 30 months of age for human consumption should be deboned under official control by the Meat Hygiene service in licensed plants.
Taking account of the views of the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Kenneth Calman, who advises me on these matters, I have concluded that I should take further action. It would not be acceptable to allow tissues shown to transmit BSE to remain within the human food chain.
I will therefore be consulting as rapidly as possible with consumers and the industry on proposals to implement the second of the options indicated by SEAC: deboning of all beef, whether from home supplies or imported, coming from cattle over 6 months old before it is sold to the consumer. It is helpful that, currently, only about 5% of beef is consumed on the bone. The proposals would allow deboning to take place in cutting plants, butchers* shops, catering establishments or other commercial premises but would not allow the bones to be sold, given to consumers or used in the preparation of food. That is in line with SEAC advice on this point.
This action, which is being taken on a precautionary basis, will ensure that UK consumers continue to be given the highest protection possible against the risks from BSE, while we press ahead with our determined action to eradicate this disease completely from our cattle herd.
I know that this announcement will come as a further disappointment to our beef producers. My message to them is that this Government is acting firmly and rapidly to protect consumer confidence, which is in the fundamental interests of the beef industry. We are maintaining a high level of support through the Over Thirty Month Scheme, direct aid and other measures, worth nearly £1.5 billion this year."
December 4, 1997 Agence France-PresseLONDON - Britain on Wednesday announced it was banning sales of T-bone steaks, spare ribs and all other beef on the bone after evidence that bones and marrow can transmit "mad cow disease." Amid growing militancy by cattle farmers, Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham told parliament he was proposing to de-bone all beef, home produced or imported, from cattle over six months old before it could be sold.
He said he was taking the action on "a strictly precautionary basis" following advice from his expert committee on bovine spongiform encepalothapy (BSE), which Britain has admitted is the probable cause of a new strain of the fatal human brain disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). The committee said nerve swellings in the backbone -- ganglia -- had been found to carry BSE, which could be released in cooking.
"The first priority... is protection of the consumer," Cunningham said, although he insisted British beef was safe and stressed that 95 percent of beef was sold off the bone. The scientists admitted the risk was small, with only six cattle among the 2.2 million slaughtered this year thought likely to pose any hazard at all.
Nevertheless, supermarkets immediately took all meat on bones, including T-bone steaks, ribs of beef and oxtail, off display and smaller butchers were expected to do the same. One of Britain's biggest restaurant chains, Beefeaters, also took T-bone steak off its menus.
The expectation that the new ban would further depress British beef prices and demand fueled protests by farmers across the country, who are seeking government aid for their ailing industry. Cattle prices have already been cut by a third in the past year by falling domestic demand, the European-imposed worldwide ban on British beef and the strong pound. On Wednesday night thousands of farmers held protests along west coast ports, turning back imports of subsidized Irish beef.
In Scotland hundreds of farmers mobbed the port of Stranraer and forced lorries from Ireland and Northern Ireland to take the next ferry back. In Gaerwen in north Wales, 2,000 farmers at a protest rally were expected at descend on the port of Holyhead for a repeat of the protests of the last three nights, which have seen lorries turned back to Ireland and on Sunday saw 40 tonnes of beef burgers thrown into the sea when drivers refused to do so. In Liverpool a group of farmers also gathered to stop further imports.
Earlier government ministers met farmers' leaders in an unsuccessful attempt to head off further protests. Beef farmer David Hill, who rears 400 animals on his farm in southwest England, said he was "astounded" by the ban. He said it would shatter beef sales. Another farmer, Richard Barter, who has 127 cattle, said: "This could be the end of the line. I am completely gutted. We are not making money now, how are we going to cope."
David Naish, National Farmers' Union president, offered an opposite view, however, saying the move should add to consumer confidence because the standards to which British farmers produced beef made it the best in the world. In Europe the French government said there was no reason "to panic" in France and the European Commission reassured consumers that the situation in Britain was "different to other member states." Both said they had asked for Britain to hand over its new evidence for examination.
Wednesday's swift reaction to the evidence was in marked contrast to the previous Conservative government's handling of BSE revelations, political commentators said. The government has also indicated it may hold a public inquiry into the entire madcow affair. The new strain of CJD which BSE is held to cause has already killed more than 20 people. Nevertheless the ban is a major embarrassment for London which has mounted a nine-month campaign to get the European Union ban on British beef exports lifted.
Wed, Dec 3, 1997 By John Morrison ReutersLONDON - Britain Wednesday banned the sale of unboned beef as a precautionary move to stop the risk of mad cow disease, wiping oxtail soup, roast rib of beef and T-bone steak off the national menu. Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham told the House of Commons that beef from all animals over six months old, both British and imported, would have to have the bones removed before it was sold to the consumer.
The deboning can be carried out at meat cutting plants, butchers' shops, catering establishments and other commercial premises. Beef bones may no longer be sold, given to consumers or used in the preparation of food. Cunningham said the risk was very small but he took the decision on a precautionary basis to protect consumers while efforts continued to eradicate BSE from the national herd.
Research by the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) showed a risk of infection in some nervous tissues called dorsal root ganglia lying within the bones of the spinal column, and also in bone marrow. The infectivity was found only in animals over 30 months old, which have already been banned from sale, and which had been fed a heavy dose of infected tissue.
"I know that this announcement will come as a further disappointment to our beef producers," Cunningham said. "My message to them is that this government is acting firmly and rapidly to protect consumer confidence."The European Union banned exports of British beef in March 1996 following scientific evidence of a link between the brain-wasting disease Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE, or mad cow disease) and a new variant of its human equivalent. The announcement sparked a steep fall in beef sales across Europe. Although British sales are now back above their pre-ban level, farmers say their incomes are depressed by their inability to export and by the strength of the pound sterling, which is sucking in beef imports from other European countries.
Earlier this week Welsh farmers dumped 40 tons of Irish beefburgers into the sea to protest at the imports. They also forced six trucks arriving at the port of Fishguard to return to Ireland without delivering their consignments of beef. Cunningham said there was no reason why his measures against on-the-bone beef should hit the market for the meat. "I am confident that people will go on buying and eating beef," he said.
Sir David Naish, president of Britain's National Farmers Union, said he hoped Cunningham's move would reinforce consumer confidence that eating beef was safe by convincing the public that ministers were acting on scientific advice. "This ought to add to consumer confidence, not take away from it," he told BBC television.
Beef farmers greeted the news with dismay. "What a time to announce it! We're right on our knees with the strength of the pound. We've got terrible problems with imports," said one farmer, Ian Pettyfer. "I am absolutely gutted...What more can we take," his colleague Richard Barter said.
Scientist Richard Lacey of Leeds University, a critic of Britain's handling
of the mad cow crisis, said a ban would be too little, too late.
"It is ridiculous to think that beef, in general being consumed is safe,
and the bones are dangerous," he said.
Some 22 Britons have died of a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease,
the human equivalent of BSE, which is believed to stem from eating contaminated
Scientists believe BSE may have developed in the 1980s when regulations
governing commercial cattle feed were relaxed.
Around five per cent of beef in Britain has been sold on the bone.
Wed, Dec 3, 1997 John von Radowitz, Science Correspondent, PA NewsGovernment scientists discovered as part of on-going research into BSE that tissue taken from nerve roots branching out from the spinal cord can transmit the disease. The spinal cord itself is known to have a high infectivity risk, and for that reason is banned from human consumption. But until now the dorsal root ganglia which lie within the bones of the spinal column were assumed to be safe.
Normally these are left behind when meat is cut off the spine. But certain cuts - rib beef, T-bone steak and oxtail - include the bones that contain the nerve ganglia. Boil them in a stew or to make stock, or put them in soup - oxtail, for example - and the nerve material could leach out.
BSE and its human equivalent, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease are thought to be caused by proteins called prions that have changed shape and become dangerous. The disease is spread by a chain reaction of harmful prions altering others they make contact with. Scientists are now convinced that a new strain of CJD that emerged last year is triggered by people eating meat infected with the cattle disease.
Ministry of Agriculture researchers at the Central Veterinary Laboratory in West Byfleet, Surrey, tested suspicious cattle tissue by injecting it into the brains of mice. If the mice became ill, it showed that the tissue was infectious. Before today's announcement infectivity had only been detected in the lower part of the small intestine, the brain, the retina of the eye and the spinal cord. All this material has been banned from the human food chain. But critics said the mouse experiments were not sensitive enough to give an accurate picture of risks attached to cattle with BSE. They were likely to seize on the fact that infectivity has suddenly been found in dorsal root ganglia when it was never detected there before.
Some experts were worried that blood might also pose a risk, although the tests had never shown any evidence that BSE could be transmitted this way. In this context, the fact that bone marrow was also now believed to be infectious - at least in cattle showing clinical symptoms of BSE - might be seen as significant.
Bone marrow is the factory that produces most of the body's blood cells, including all of the red cells and platelets and most of the white cells. For the Government's most outspoken critic, Professor Richard Lacey, bone marrow is a bigger worry than nerve roots.
"I'm very worried about blood," he said. "Bone marrow and blood are the same thing, because bone marrow makes the blood."
Wed, Dec 3, 1997 PA News ReportersNews of the proposed Government ban on the sale of all beef on the bone stunned farmers demonstrating against Government inaction over farm incomes. As farmers began driving tractors and trailers through Newton Abbot in Devon in protest over that issue, others began reacting to the latest body blow to hit the industry.
One beef farmer, Richard Barter, who has 127 cattle on his farm at Bovey Tracey in south Devon, said: "This could be the end of the line." He said: "I am completely gutted, the cost of boning is going to be put back onto the farmer. "We are not making any money now, how are we going to cope?" Mr Barter, who said his family had been farming in the area since 1300, said: "I am completely fed up."
The chairman of the Devon branch of the NFU, Ian Pettyfer said the announcement had come like a "bolt from the blue", just as farmers were looking to make good prices for their beef. He predicted that retailers would now stop buying beef until they were able to gauge public reaction. Mr Pettyfer said he had no difficulty with any public safety concerns, but said: "It is the way it has been announced. You would expect the leaders of the farming industry to be told."
Beef farmer David Hill, who rears 400 animals on his north Devon farm, said he was "astonished" by the announcement and had "no inkling" it was to be made.
"What concerns me primarily is that I am told 5% of meat is currently on the bone. That does not sound a lot, but the announcement is bound to spread uncertainty in the mind of the housewife who is already confused as to whether to buy beef."It would lead to lower beef sales, because of the uncertainty, and a lower price in the market. It was already at a level where he knew he could not make a profit in the coming year. Mr Hill said he was not aware there was any scientific evidence to suggest the ban was necessary.
Beef sales had recovered slightly in the wake of the BSE crisis. But the latest announcement was bound to drive them down again because of the uncertainty it would cause. Austin Mitchell, the Labour MP for Great Grimsby, said the Government was right to ban beef on the bone. Mr Mitchell - a member of the agriculture select committee - agreed that the timing of the scientific report was unfortunate for farmers but added that it was not Mr Cunningham's fault that the report had been leaked.
"It is better to act quickly rather than having uncertainty lingering on. Of course, it is bad news for farmers but then it will only affect a relatively small proportion of 5%."But Michael Jack, the shadow spokesman for agriculture, condemned the fact that the reports had been leaked to a consumer programme.
"No-one will be against measures which make British beef even safer," he said. But the leak showed great discourtesy for Parliament. "I demand that Mr Cunningham makes a full statement with all the details of the report in the Commons."Liberal Democrat food spokesman Paul Tyler said: "I am a bit concerned that, having gone to the extreme of over-reassurance from ministers in the previous government, we're now getting a knee-jerk ... instantaneous response which may not be based on the robust, factual analysis of the real science."
The Liberal Democrats agriculture spokesman Charles Kennedy urged ministers to insist that the ban applies to all meat sold in the UK, including those meats which have been imported. He described the announcement as "worrying" but agreed a ban should be enforced if there was any scientific proof of an infection risk.
"In the light of this news it is now vital that the minister imposes the ban he proposed five months ago on imports where the Specified Bovine Material has not been removed and where the meat has not been produced according to the stringent requirements and standards of Scottish beef."But the SNP's agriculture spokesman John Swinney accused the Government of "heavy-handedness" and demanded to know at what stage the Government first received an indication there may be a problem with beef on the bone. He added:
"The Government failed to consult with the agriculture industry or consumers in advance of this announcement, so with their shock statement have done nothing to help allay public fears. "We are now over 20 months into the BSE crisis and seven months into a Labour Government who have done as little as the Tories to get the beef ban lifted for Scottish farmers. "The Government must stop sitting on its hands, end the posturing over BSE in Europe, and get to grips with the whole BSE crisis."The Country Landowners Association president Ian MacNicol urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to stick to his pledge to ensure the restrictions applied equally to imported beef.
"We produce the best quality beef in the world yet our competitors from other countries are able to import beef without the same level of quality control. "Of course we believe that consumer confidence is of paramount importance and we all must do everything to fully restore their faith in our top quality British product. "But equally our Government should ensure that all imported beef should meet the same stringent controls."Alistair Donaldson, general manager of the Meat and Livestock Commission, praised the Government for their swift action in reacting to the new information. He said:
"We have new information and we have to listen to it. The consumer has to go before everything else. Consumer safety is the number one priority. "Seac only met on Tuesday so I would say the Government has reacted pretty rapidly. They've given the new information prompt consideration."The Scottish National Farmers' Union welcomed the advice of Seat and said it would co-operate fully with the new measures. A spokeswoman said: "It is another blow for the industry, but let's not forget it is the outcome of laboratory research and what is being talked about is the possibility of a very, very small risk.
John Fuller, director of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, which represents independent family butchers in England and Wales, said the Government was being "ultra-cautious."
"We are not surprised that the Government wants to take a view like this. It just seems to be one more disturbance to the routine of selling meat. But if it is something that gives consumers confidence then it's something that we would co-operate with." "There is no problem with butchers taking the bone out of the meat. It is the Government being ultra cautious" He added: "It will not affect a large quantity, but traditional cuts like H bone, foreribs and T-bone steak will have to be taken off the bone."The Vegetarian Society said it wanted a ban to extend to gelatine made from bone marrow. It said gelatine was used in a number of products including sweets and yoghurts. A ban which did not include it was "farcical and illogical".
The South West NFU regional director Anthony Gibson said: "This is a body blow to an industry already on its knees." The impact of the new precautions on a depressed market made the case for support for the beef industry "unanswerable." The Government had to ask for "immediate release" of European funds already earmarked to assist UK beef producers.
"Hundreds of family farms in the South West and thousands of jobs in the rural economy are at stake," he said.Devon NFU chairman Ian Pettyfer said the timing of the ban was "horrifying" coming at the Christmas market at which most beef was aimed at. "It is the best market of the year, I am amazed at the heavy handedness," he said, adding: "Farmers feel let down by the Government once again."
Lord Lucas 25th November 1997The Lord Lucas - To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the use of bovine blood cells and plasma is permitted in milk replacement for calves; and, if so, why.
We are advised that porcine blood plasma may be used in some pig feed (although this is not common), but we are not aware of any use of blood cells and blood products in calf milk replacers."
By GORDON SLOVUT, Minneapolis-St. Paul Star TribuneQuestions and answers about the irradiation of food.
Q: Does irradiation make food radioactive?
Q: Will it change the flavor of food?
A: It won't change the flavor of beef, chicken, berries, potatoes or carrots, and scientists are working on ways to avoid altering the flavor of fruits and vegetables in general.
"Our aim is to do nothing to change the flavor, vitamin content or constituents while at the same time getting rid of infectious agents," said Michael Osterholm, Minnesota state epidemiologist.
Q: Will it raise consumer prices?
A: Not significantly. Osterholm estimates that irradiating a $1.50 pound of ground beef will cost about a half a cent.
Q: At what point in the production process is meat irradiated?
A: Probably at the slaughtering plant for meats, although it also might be done at the processing plant to avoid contamination during handling.
Q: At what point are fruits and vegetables irradiated?
A: Even though the FDA approved irradiation of fruits and vegetables several years ago, where it would be done hasn't been worked out yet. But they probably would be irradiated by large growers or importers.
Q: Does irradiation damage fruits and vegetables?
A: Some, such as lettuce, soften or change when subjected to irradiation levels needed to wipe out the bacteria and parasites that can make people sick. Others, such as berries, are unaffected by irradiation. Osterholm said he is confident that a pasteurization process for almost all fruits and vegetables that need it will be worked out.
Q: Does it increase the shelf life of food?
A: It should, by killing the bugs that cause spoilage.
Q: Does it mean we can eat our hamburgers raw?
A: Not necessarily. There's always a possibility of contamination during handling.
Q: What bugs will irradiation kill?
A: That depends on the level of irradiation. But plans now are to irradiate meat sufficiently to kill bacteria and parasites.
Q: What won't it kill?
A: Viruses, at the levels now planned. That shouldn't matter with meats because animal viruses are not being transmitted to people via meat. The viruses, such as hepatitis, are the result of improper handling -- such as human fecal matter getting onto food.
Q: Will irradiated food be shelf-stable?
A: No; irradiation at the level approved for poultry, for example, pasteurizes the meat; it doesn't sterilize it. So it would have to be kept refrigerated, and normal handling precautions would have to be observed.
Q: How soon will irradiated food be widely available?
A: Osterholm said that it's unclear and that, for meat, it depends on how long it will take to build irradiating facilities. But the food industry, especially the meat industry, "is ready to move," he said.
December 4, 1997 Agence France-PresseLONDON - Britain braced for more blockades of ports across the country Thursday as farmers focussed their anger on Irish beef imports following a ban on sales of British beef on the bone in a new mad cow disease scare.
Irish Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh flew to London to seek assurances that Britain would put an end to a three-day blockade of Irish beef imports by British farmers.
A Downing Street spokesman acknowledged the "considerable difficulties" facing cattle farmers whose income has been cut by a third over the past year. But he said the government was prepared to order police to unblock ports and ensure the free circulation of Irish goods, in line with European rules. "Farmers are not above the law -- that has got to be made clear to them," said Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham after meeting Walsh.
The Irish minister said London should respect European rules as it had urged France to do last month when striking French truckers blockaded channel ports. "There can be no excuse for some of the scenes witnessed around our ports, " said Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman. Welsh Secretary Win Griffiths has already hinted at police force to ensure free access to Welsh ports.
The protest movement began in Holyhead, north Wales, on Sunday when farmers threw 40 tonnes of Irish hamburgers into the sea. It now threatens to spread to the key channel port of Dover, after already reaching Liverpool, northwest England, and Stranraer and Cairnyan in Scotland where farmers protested overnight Wednesday.
Farmers have seen their incomes fall due to the high value of sterling, the worldwide ban on British beef in operation since March last year, and unfair competition from European subsidised beef from Ireland. They have also been infuriated by the latest beef on the bone ban. They claim the ban has destroyed consumer confidence they had only just begun to recapture.
December 5 1997 BY ROBIN YOUNGI DICED with BSE yesterday at a cost of £50 plus service. At Chez Nico at Ninety Park Lane in London's Mayfair, the management were struggling with the implications of the Government's latest disclosures about the connection between beef bones and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of BSE.
"The bouillon oxtail with red wine and truffle essence is off," announced Nico Ladenis, the chef-proprietor, consigning the lead item on his £74-a-head gastronomic menu to the dustbin. "We cannot serve that with the scare that is on at the moment."There was, pointed out Paul Rhodes, the chef de cuisine, four litres of oxtail stock for the bouillon already prepared. "Then I will have a big bowl myself," Mr Ladenis said, suddenly beaming.
I joined him. "If people order it specifically, well and good," Mr Ladenis said. He added: "We are not so much affected as some. Since 1976 I have made my basic brown sauce principally from chicken stock but there are some veal and beef bones in too. Just a few in a very large pot, to add a little extra gelatine."
The consequence, Mr Ladenis found on analysing his menus with Chef Rhodes yesterday, was that three more dishes included in the 11-course gastronomic menu might require modification when the government ban on beef bones in food preparation comes into force. All but one dish among the meat and offal main courses on the restaurant's ý la carte menu would also be affected. "The worst would be if I had to take off the calf's sweetbreads," Mr Ladenis lamented. "That is an absolute delight."
The sweetbreads, like the pigeon, duck breast, veal cutlet and to a less extent the saddle of lamb, employed sauces in which the veal and beef bones made a small but significant contribution. The fillet of Scotch beef, though usually served without sauce and "safely" off the bone, could be at risk if customers asked for a sauce accompaniment.
The milk-fed veal cutlet, which I chose as my main course, was especially risky because, though of Dutch origin, it was served on the bone, and no one could tell me that the calf from which it originated was less than six months old at death.
"The usual killing age for veal is more like nine months or just under a year," Mr Ladenis said. "If beef and veal bones cannot be used any more, then we will have to make our brown sauce entirely with chicken bones and reduce it further to make it stronger. We could get extra gelatine from beef sinew but it is not the same as bones and I think would not be as good."Other customers in the dining room tucked into fillet steaks, BSE-publicity and a £12 supplement notwithstanding. "I gave up paying attention to health experts years ago," one said. "I am 68 years old. If I contract BSE I will be ga-ga when I am 80. So where is the news in that?"
December 5 1997 Times BY MICHAEL HORNSBY, AGRICULTURE CORRESPONDENTBUTCHERS were besieged yesterday by customers rushing to stock up on ribs of beef, sirloin, oxtails and T-bone steaks before the Government's ban on bone-in cuts comes into force.
Supermarkets said beef sales generally were holding up well and reported little sign of alarm among shoppers over the latest scientific warnings about possible risks from "mad cow" disease in beef sold on the bone.
The Ministry of Agriculture was unable to say exactly when the ban would take effect. Supermarkets have already voluntarily withdrawn beef on the bone but many butchers said they would go on supplying customers until ordered to stop.
Jack Cunningham, the Minister of Agriculture, said he planned to implement the ban "as soon as possible". Officials said the aim was to have it in place after a week or ten days of consultation.
Roger Kelsey, of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, which represents 10,000 independent butchers in England and Wales, said: "The risk from beef bones is absolutely minimal, as the scientists admit. We are telling our members that until the ban becomes law, they should go on selling what their customers want."
David Lidgate, who runs one of London's oldest butchers in Holland Park Avenue, said: "We had a tremendous run on ribs of beef this morning, with several dozen snapped up. Trade was probably ten times the normal rate."
Gordon Hepburn, national chairman of the Guild of Q Butchers, also reported brisk demand for bone-in beef at his shop in Mountnessing, Essex. "My very first customer this morning wanted three ribs of beef and an oxtail and asked me to put aside another few oxtails for the weekend."
John Grabowski, proprietor of F. Bosworth Butchers in Loughton, Essex, said: "We have had people coming in panic-buying. One chap bought six T-bone steaks to put in the freezer."
Joe Collier, of Eastwoods Butchers in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, said he had sold a week's worth of ribs in one day. "Customers are very angry. They do not believe there is a danger from organically fed prime beef."
About 5 per cent of beef is eaten on the bone. Sales are worth £150 million a year, with £70 million sold through shops and £80 million via hotels and restaurants. Dr Cunningham decided to ban bone-in cuts on advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee that BSE infectivity had been found in dorsal root ganglia, nervous tissue lying with the bone of the spinal column. The research also showed that infectivity might be present in bone marrow in cattle already showing clinical symptoms of BSE, though this finding is regarded as "provisional". The scientists said tests had failed to detect any infectivity in muscle, meat or blood.
The risk to the public is described as extremely small. It is estimated that next year only three out of 2.2 million cattle slaughtered for human consumption will be near enough to the end of the incubation period for BSE to raise the possibility of infectivity in their dorsal root ganglia.
Irish lorry drivers' representatives last night called on their members to challenge blockades at ports in Britain. The Irish Road Haulage Association said drivers should not return to Ireland, as they have done since Sunday when the protests began. Brian Farrell, its spokesman, said the 4,700 member companies had lost too much money to tolerate further blockades.
December 5 1997 BY PHILIP WEBSTER AND MICHAEL HORNSBYAN EMERGENCY package of help for the livestock industry is being considered by the Government against a background of widening protests by British farmers angry at the impact of cheap beef imports on their crisis-torn industry.
As farmers blockading British ports were told last night by the Government that they were not above the law, the European Union issued a warning that Britain could face legal action if it did not stop the impeding of free trade. Franz Fischler, the European Agriculture Commissioner, reacted after a complaint by the Irish Farmers' Association. Earlier Neil Kinnock, the European Transport Commissioner, assured a delegation of Irish farmers that he would act, if necessary, to guarantee free passage for their exports to Britain.
Jack Cunningham, the Agriculture Minister, had said that the protests were damaging the farmers' own interests and threatening Britain's close relationship with Ireland.
Last night about 250 farmers brought traffic to a standstill briefly at Dover's Eastern Docks. Others planned action at Folkestone in an extension of the campaign of port blockades that began in Holyhead and Fishguard in Wales and later spread to Seaforth on Merseyside and Stranraer in southwest Scotland.
The escalation came as the Cabinet decided to set up a far-reaching inquiry into the origins and conduct of the BSE crisis as part of its efforts to restore confidence in British beef.
At the same time its decision to ban within weeks the sale of beef on the bone sparked a wave of last-minute "panic-buying" from customers keen to stock up on ribs of beef, T-bone steaks and oxtails. Ministers rejected accusations that they had overreacted to the latest scientific advice, which shows BSE had been detected in bone marrow. And Downing Street confirmed that a BSE inquiry stretching well back into the 1980s will be established before Christmas.
The investigation, expected to be headed by a judge, will summon all the key figures involved, including the former Conservative ministers Stephen Dorrell and Douglas Hogg, and possibly the former Prime Minister, John Major. "We have long acknowledged that this issue is so serious, there must be some form of inquiry," the Prime Minister's press spokesman said.
It will also cover Dr Cunningham's latest decision - to ban the sale of beef on the bone - which sparked confusion yesterday over when it would take effect. Ministers are required by law to consult and then to a lay an order before Parliament. Estimates as to how long that would take varied all day, with some officials suggesting it would be the new year before the ban could operate. However, by last night senior officials voiced the hope that it could be in place the week after next.
The Cabinet spent much of its meeting yesterday discussing the crisis. Afterwards, in the Commons, the minister said that the Government was considering "whether and how we can provide extra assistance ... when I can make an announcement about that decision I will". Ministers are believed to be considering extra help for the beef sector from within the agriculture budget, possibly by switching assistance that goes to the dairy industry. The money will be supplemented by compensation from European Union funds.
Dr Cunningham emerged from a London meeting with Joe Walsh, his Irish counterpart, to pledge to do everything in his power to bring the chaos to a halt. "Farmers have no right to act outside the law. If this was a bunch of unemployed youngsters people would see it completely differently," he said. "Farmers are not above the law - that has got to be made clear to them."
The minister said that the protesters were "short-sighted" if they could not see the damage they were doing to Britain's reputation. "When French lorry drivers were blockading French ports farmers here were the first to complain, rightly so, that their interests were being affected."
Dr Cunningham added that his discussion with Mr Walsh had been "cordial but nevertheless frank. Joe has left me in no doubt about the strength of feeling in the Republic of Ireland about the illegal blockading of legitimate trade."
The Road Haulage Association called on port authorities to ensure that all docks were kept open as farmers threatened round-the-clock pickets. "What started as a minor dispute is in danger of spiralling out of control, with mob rule dictating who can and cannot transit to and from the UK," a spokesman said. "The British economy cannot be held to ransom."
News of the BSE inquiry was welcomed by MPs and relatives of CJD victims. Charles Kennedy, agriculture spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, hoped it would be "comprehensive, independent and public".