Mad Cow Measures Fail To Cover
Meat Pies And Hamburgers
By Elizabeth Piper

LONDON (Reuters) - Shops in Britain may still be selling pies and burgers made from meat tainted by mad cow disease due to loopholes in measures aimed at keeping BSE out of the food chain, a government adviser said on Tuesday.
Harriet Kimbell, a member of the government's advisory committee on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), said restrictions fell short of halting all imports of meat from older cattle, which are more likely to have the brain disease.
``There could be processed meat over 30 months old in this country being sold quite legally. Yes, I think it's highly likely don't you?'' Kimbell told a news conference.
``There is a legal loophole...It is illegal to import fresh meat over 30 months, but it is not illegal for an English manufacturer to drive his own lorry to...Europe and buy fresh meat (over 30 months) and make it into meat products.''
She said it was also not illegal to import pies or processed foods made with meat over 30 months old from countries with BSE.
``It is an anomaly. If we think there shouldn't be meat eaten over 30 months old then I think there shouldn't be meat in pies over 30 months old...And that includes frozen beefburgers.''MERRY-GO-ROUND
Kimbell said the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee had voiced their concerns over the restrictions but it was up to Britain's food watchdog to rethink measures to halt what could become a merry-go-round of infected beef sales.
BSE has spread across Europe since the first UK herd was found with the disease in 1986 and then linked to its human form, new variant Creuztfeldt Jakob disease, 10 years later.
Consumer panic was sparked elsewhere in Europe after French supermarkets said in October they may have unwittingly sold contaminated beef. Then Germany, Spain and other countries reported cases of BSE.
Britain imported 726 tonnes of frozen beef on the bone from France from September of last year until August, and a further 1,318 tonnes of frozen beef. Imports of fresh meat of both types stood at 679 tonnes, the Agriculture Ministry said.
Those imports may also contain meat from cattle under 30 months old that could carry the disease without showing clinical symptoms, scientists have said.
Committee members said they had to put up with unsophisticated tests and a lack of knowledge of the disease for the time being until more money was made available for research.
``Clearly the backbone of the controls in this country is ensuring that animals over 30 months old do not get into this country,'' Chris Bostock, acting chair of the committee, said.
``We have to rely on current validated tests which have only been validated on clinically affected animals...but it is not in the remit of SEAC to change these things.''

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