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Contaminated German Beef

Volume 623: debated on Wednesday 14 March 2001

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether, following the discovery of contaminated German beef, consignments of such beef are now being routinely spot-checked at all points of entry into the United Kingdom, including ports and airports; and [HL677]Whether, following the discovery of the fifth consignment of contaminated German beef in the United Kingdom, they are now inspecting every consignment, rather than spot-checking some of the imports. [HL678]

We are advised on questions of food safety by the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The Government are greatly concerned at the discoveries of imported German beef contaminated with Specified Risk Material which should, under European Union law, have been removed at the slaughterhouse. The FSA has taken up these problems vigorously with the European Commission and with the German authorities.Meat is part of the European single market, and may therefore circulate freely within the EU, without any requirement for border controls. Meat imported from another EU member state is subject to random checks at the point of destination within the United Kingdom. It would therefore be contrary to EU law to instigate border checks on imports of German beef.The FSA has taken action, by instructing the Meat Hygiene Service in Great Britain, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Northern Ireland, to check every single consignment of imported German carcass beef which arrives at a licensed meat plant in the UK. The FSA has also written to local authorities to advise them to step up their checks at those meat plants under local authority supervision which are likely to receive consignments of imported German beef. These instructions and advice were issued on 29 January, following the first discoveries of contaminated German beef.