One in five of Britain's abattoirs are expected to fail to meet the required standards under a "name and shame" list to be published this week for the first time by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
The agriculture minister, Jack Cunningham, will publish a league table of the slaughterhouses in an attempt to raise standards following food scares about E. coli in meat and Creutzfeldt Jakob disease (CJD) from infected carcasses.
The list will identify slaughterhouses which fall below the minimum target score of 65 per cent in the checks on standards.
A senior Government source said it was part of the Government's drive to raise standards in public service. "Standards in abattoirs matter as much as standards in health and education, which we are raising," the source said.
The unprecedented move to name companies whose slaughterhouses fail to meet standards is also part of the effort by the Government to restore consumer confidence in food through the new food standards agency. Ministers believe publishing the names will force the worst to clean up their performance.
Maff inspects the separation of possible sources of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, such as the spinal column, from the meat for human consumption. Abattoirs are also checked to ensure that the cattle are clean before they are killed to limit the threat of faecal contamination, believed to be a main cause of E. coli infection.
A pounds 2m campaign to encourage consumers to back British beef was launched today. The campaign to support farmers still reeling from the effects of the BSE crisis will claim British beef is better and potentially safer than imports and urge customers to demand home-grown beef.
Some pounds 400,000 of the cost will be met by a European Union fund set up to promote quality beef, even though Europe has yet to lift the ban on British beef exports which is crippling beleaguered farmers.
The campaign, driven by the Meat and Livestock Commission, will feature television and newspaper adverts and promotions across the country. The commission is planning a British beef week at the Houses of Parliament, a British steak pie competition in pubs and a British meat chef of the year event.
This month the commission will publish top chefs' recipes for making beef stock without using bones to help gourmets make up for the ban on bones imposed by the Government last month.
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