BEEF AT RISK: Special plants for deboning

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The Independent Online
In future, under government regulations outlined yesterday in response to the new findings of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), "carcasses from cattle aged over 30 months must be deboned in specially licensed plants supervised by the Meat Hygiene Service and the trimmings kept out of any food-chain".

About 4.8 million cattle from Britain's total herd of 11.8 million fall into this category. Most (about 3 million) are dairy cows; the rest are beef breeding cattle.

Those doing the inspections - the Meat Hygiene Service - are part of a privatised government Next Steps agency set up under the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foods last year. It took over from council environmental health officers who had been responsible for inspecting abattoirs. Its 900 staff include former environmental health officers and other experts in meat hygiene.

The Meat and Livestock Commission pointed out yesterday that most beef joints and steaks sold in supermarkets come from animals under 30 months old. Most older animals end up minced or in processedmeat products.

Another major recommendation is that "the use of mammalian meat and bonemeal in feed for all farm animals be banned". The use of ruminant- animal remains to feed other ruminants was banned in 1988 but the Government does not know how much of these feeds are given to pigs and poultry.

It announced that public- health watchdogs, in consultation with SEAC, will "have to urgently review their advice in light of the new findings". The final recommendation accepted by the Government yesterday authorises the SEAC "to consider what further research is necessary".