Row over who is to blame for first BSE test breach

NORTHERN IRELAND - The process of BSE testing older cattle is under scrutiny in Northern Ireland after a simple error resulted in a costly product recall and a wave of negative publicity for the beef industry.
calendar icon 17 November 2006
clock icon 1 minute read
The meat processor involved is embroiled in a row with the province’s Agriculture Department over who is to blame for the first breach of Over-Thirty-Month testing rules since older cattle were allowed back into the food chain a year ago.

Dunbia, formerly Dungannon Meats, says it is the innocent victim of a mistake by Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) officials who misread an ear tag.

DARD hit back, accusing Dunbia of being ‘premature’ in blaming it and insisting ultimate responsibility for complying with the rules lies with the processor.

The incident also put the spotlight on farmers and their responsibilities when it comes to presenting older cattle at abattoirs.

There will be an investigation by DARD and the Food Standards Agency, which will consider whether any changes need to be made to the system to prevent it happening again.

The incident was on October 25 when a farmer presented a 54-month-old cow to the abattoir with a batch of younger animals. DARD officials misread the identification number on its ear tag, wrongly identifying it as an under-30 months animal from the same herd.

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