Prince Charles finds banned beef 'delicious'

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The Independent Online
A LUNCH at which the Prince of Wales and a cabinet minister ate beef on the bone yesterday is being investigated by environmental health officers.

The Prince and Alun Michael, Secretary of State for Wales, were helping to promote Welsh beef and lamb in south Wales when they were offered a platter of sirloin, freshly carved in front of them. Both accepted, with Prince Charles later declaring it to be "delicious".

Neither seemed perturbed by the apparent flouting of government guidelines, which banned the sale of beef on the bone more than 12 months ago.

But last night an embarrassed spokesman for Mr Michael was forced to defend the Welsh Secretary's actions.

"Mr Michael was offered a platter of beef and he took a piece. If he did not know it was beef on the bone what can you do?" said a Welsh Office spokesman

Quite why the Celtic Manor Hotel, Golf and Country Club near Newport, decided to serve up a dish it claims it would never offer its paying customers was not clear. The hotel - hosting the Welsh beef and lamb promotion - is not planning to put it on the menu just yet.

"We cooked and served the beef to the Prince [and Mr Michael] as a present. We did not think it would cause all this fuss," said Steve Howell, spokesman for the hotel. "We are certainly not making a stand on the topic. Obviously we abide by the regulations on this. We don't sell it to our customers."

The Government banned the sale of beef on the bone in December 1997 after scientists said there was a theoretical chance that nerve ganglions attached to the bone could harbour the agent that causes Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (CJD) in humans.

The ban, retained last month on the advice of the Government's chief medical officer, is due to be reviewed again in six months.

Prince Charles, who also used the occasion to repeat his opposition to genetically modified foods, told guests at the promotion that the meat he had tasted was delicious.

"I am sorry that I got there before you did," he joked. "Shortly, you will be able to taste it like I did. It's absolutely delicious."

A spokeswoman later said while the Prince had known he was going to be offered beef, he had not realised it would be cooked on the bone.

"He does not want to get drawn into the politics of this," she added.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said: "The general rule is that the providers or caterers could face possible prosecution."

Lynda James, of Welsh Lamb and Beef Promotions, said no law had been broken by serving the Prince beef on the bone.

"It's only against the law if we sell it to the customer. The hotel did not sell it to us and we did not sell it to the Prince."

That may not be the case. A spokeswoman for the environmental health department of Newport borough council said last night it was investigating the incident.

Downing Street played down the incident, saying that Mr Michael had inadvertently eaten beef cooked on the bone.

"He didn't know it was taken from a cut that had been on the bone. He would not have eaten it if had known," said the Prime Minister's official spokesman.

"This event was to promote Welsh beef. It seems they have done extremely well."