Backlog of carcasses poses health risk, Prescott warns

Click to follow
The Independent Online
The backlog of cattle carcasses waiting to be incinerated after the BSE crisis will take 13 years to clear because of "government incompetence", the Labour Party claimed yesterday.

Just a week after a censure motion against the Government over its handling of the BSE crisis, John Prescott, Labour's deputy leader, reignited the row, alleging that a "BSE map" of Britain showed that "no one is far from a BSE storage site or rendering plant, or the incinerators and power stations being considered for burning BSE waste". He also claimed that the backlog of beef carcasses and rendered remains now awaiting incineration was creating a health problem.

"We have heard of examples where carcasses are being piled up outside warehouses waiting to be burnt," he said. "This is public health information and we should all be aware of it."

He also attacked the "beef tax" created by the problem, which has cost Britain pounds 3.5bn through lost exports, compensation paid to farmers and the cost of administering the culling, storage and incineration of all cattle over 30 months old. But the claims were dismissed as "deliberate scaremongering" by Douglas Hogg, Minister of Agriculture, who accused Mr Prescott of trying to "undermine confidence in British beef". He insisted that the remaining carcasses presented "no risk to public health" because the most potentially infectious parts had been removed at abattoirs and incinerated.

The Intervention Board of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said yesterday that it would be "extremely unlikely" that the rate of incineration of rendered waste would continue at its present slow rate.

Up till now, the remains of just 4 per cent of the 1.27 million cattle slaughtered so far under a culling scheme agreed with the European Union have been incinerated. Only one company, ReChem, near Southampton, has a permit to burn such waste, to a total of 2,000 tonnes annually. But a spokeswoman for the Intervention Board said that nine other companies were now submitting tenders. "There is 168,000 tonnes of ground cattle remains in store, and 62,000 tonnes in cold stores waiting to be rendered," she said.