Shoppers heed warning not to panic-buy meat

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The Independent Online

Food shoppers yesterday heeded the Government's calls not to panic-buy meat, despite fears that the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak could lead to shortages.

Food shoppers yesterday heeded the Government's calls not to panic-buy meat, despite fears that the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak could lead to shortages.

Fears that the public would clear chiller cabinets and delicatessen counters of meat in response to Friday's announcement of a complete ban on livestock movements throughout Britain proved groundless, supermarkets said.

Unlike last September when there was widespread panic-buying of petrol during the fuel blockades, shoppers did not stock up with extra supplies.

Even in the North-east and Essex, where the two clusters of the disease have been discovered, supermarkets said meat sales were at normal levels.

The Meat and Livestock Commission have said that there should not be major shortages, although it said that there could be problems if the ban on movement was extended. A spokesman did concede, however, that some areas may experience shortages of some cuts, such as sirloin steaks.

British bacon and ham are expected to be the first meat products off the shelves, and retailers fear that sandwiches and ready meals could be affected by the middle of the week.

Asda said it was suspending its normal guarantee that 100 per cent of the meat on its shelves is British as it had resorted to buying meat from abroad to combat possible shortages.

The supermarket chain said it had stocked up 200,000 frozen turkeys as an emergency measure. A spokesman said: "We have already seen our customers buying poultry and alternative meats in the last five days. So we decided to bring the turkeys in as a precautionary measure."

Other supermarkets were also anticipating a greater demand for poultry and fish as some people avoided pork and beef. A spokeswoman for Safeway said: "We are anticipating an increase in demand for poultry and fish and we are looking at finding new suppliers for that.

"We have enough meat supplies for a few days, but we are looking elsewhere, such as Ireland, to find new suppliers."

A spokeswoman for Somerfield said: "We are telling customers in our stores that there could be a shortage of meat and to bear with us. But the knock-on effect will be with other foods."

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