Beef sales plummet as shoppers play it safe

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SUPERMARKETS across Britain yesterday confirmed beef was off the menu as shoppers shunned weekend joints of topside, sirloin and rump in the wake of the BSE scare. Sales of pork, lamb, and poultry were up as alternative Sunday roasts, while fast food outlets confirmed the burger business was suffering, writes Paul Field.

In the first big shopping weekend since ministers disclosed there could be a link between mad cow disease and the human equivalent, consumer power suggested the beef industry was waging a losing battle in its bid to allay fears over the BSE crisis.

Terry Walker, shopping for Sunday lunch at the Food Giant supermarket in Hyde, Greater Manchester, chose chicken in place of the usual beef. "I will keep away from it altogether after what I have read this week. I think a lot of lies have been told to us."

Father-of-two Richard Cable, 43, of Mottram, Tameside, said: "I haven't bought any beef and won't until they get rid of the whole herd."

At Tesco in Victoria, London, much of the beef had been reduced to half price by lunchtime, while in a branch of Sainsburys in the capital, shelves of beef stayed fully stocked while minced lamb had sold out by 9.30am.

But some shoppers were looking at their budgets. Judy Cashman bought minced beef despite her fears. "I have four kids to feed but they will have to eat mince because I cannot afford a nice cut of meat."

Teresa Payne was proud to buy minced beef. "My 16-year-old son is 6ft 4ins and was brought up on British beef," she said.

McDonald's fast food chain revealed burger sales have fallen since last Wednesday. A spokesman said: "It could cause many problems for us. We have contingency plans. Buying meat from abroad is an option."