Beef on the bone is banned in new scare

Steak will never taste the same again, say chefs

Beef will no longer be sold on the bone, the Government has announced. Charles Arthur and Colin Brown look at why, from today, we should not buy T-bone steaks, rib of beef, oxtail, ribs, or even gelatine and Oxo cubes.

The crisis that engulfed the Conservative government and cost Britain pounds 1.5bn yesterday confronted Tony Blair's government with the agonising decision to ban beef on the bone from all shops, supermarkets, butchers and restaurants. Jack Cunningham, the Minister for Agriculture, acted immediately to try to shore up public confidence in the meat trade after receiving the advice of the Government's scientific experts that there was a small risk of BSE-infected material getting into the human food chain through bones.

The Government was forced to act quickly after recommendations made by the committee leaked out from its monthly meeting on Tuesday night. The ban will apply to imported beef as well. The European Commission said last night that it would be legal to ban such sales - as long as the meat is deboned in the United Kingdom.

But the rushed decision - based on new scientific work by the Central Veterinary Laboratory - led to confusion, consternation and in some cases, immediate action by restaurants. By lunchtime yesterday, T-bone steak was off the menu at Beefeater and Harvester restaurants.

Farmers were dismayed. "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 Ian Pettyfer, a farmer who had been taking part in a protest about government inaction over low farm incomes. Although meat "on the bone" represents only about 5 per cent of the beef market, banning it has a symbolic effect, while also showing that the book on BSE, or mad cow disease, is not closed.

The new tests consisted of purposely infecting cattle with BSE and then killing them at various stages of the disease. Extracts from tissues were then injected into mice to see if they became ill. The results found that the peanut-sized nerve bundles known as the "dorsal root ganglia", which lie beside each vertebra of the spine, could be infectious. That in turn could endanger humans, because the BSE disease agent - a misshapen form of a normal body protein - can cause the "new variant" form of the brain-wasting illness Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (v-CJD). Officially, 23 Britons have so far died of v-CJD.

Dr Cunningham said that the move was being taken on a precautionary basis. "It 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."

He and Professor John Pattinson, chairman of SEAC, the expert committee which gave the advice, said last night at a hurriedly arranged press conference that the same tests which uncovered the new risk had shown that meat, beef liver and kidneys were safe.

Restaurants will be stopped from making oxtail soup to halt the supply of bones, although cans of soup are regarded as safe.The ban will also halt the use of bones in stock cubes, and gelatine for food which includes some confectionery.

The ban will not come into effect until an order is passed through the Commons but Dr Cunningham said in the meantime, the public should stop buying beef on the bone either in shops or restaurants. "If people who want to avoid a very small risk they should only buy beef off the bone."

In the Commons, Michael Jack, the Tories' agriculture spokesman, said the move would worry quality butchers and farmers raising long-maturing animals.

Dr Cunningham replied: "Consumers are worried too. Are you really suggesting that we should have suppressed this information, that we should have refused to act on SEAC's advice and that we should have kept this matter quiet? Is that what you would have preferred?

"Notwithstanding that this is a very small risk, I could not accept that even a small risk should be taken. That is the basis on which we have taken this action."

He said that other experiments using the same technique have so far shown negative results for muscle, meat and blood.

But Stephen Dealler, an independent expert on BSE and CJD, said yesterday that using mice might be too insensitive a test: "You can only inject a small amount into them, whereas humans eat comparatively large amounts of food." He said yesterday's ban is "a reasonable step to take" because "it's impossible to say exactly how infectious these tissues would be."

Yet the finding also implies that British meat produced under existing UK regulations is safer than that imported from abroad. The infectivity only showed up in tissue from cattle over 30 months old - but those cannot be used for food in the UK.

Yet on the Continent, such cattle are regularly used for food. And countries there are now showing the signs of BSE outbreaks which could devastate their beef industry as much as Britain's. "There are more infection in other countries - they're at the beginning of their epidemic, rather than the tail end," said Dr Dealler.

Suggested Topics
News
people
Sport
Yaya Sanogo celebrates scoring the opening goal with Arsenal's English midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
champions leagueLive: All the latest from the Emirates and Bulgaria, where Liverpool face Ludogorets
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Multi-skilled graphic designer ...

Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solicitor

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Court of Protection Solic...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?