NBA appeals for vigilance over beef exports to Europe

UK - Precarious UK beef industry cannot allow any more potentially disastrous Older Cattle Disposal Scheme (OCDS) mistakes, reports the National Beef Association.
calendar icon 30 January 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
If more care is not taken over the delivery of pre-August 1996 born cows to their correct outlet the UK could lose both its beef export markets and the best chance it has of encouraging more competitive bidding for its underpriced finished cattle.

This warning comes from the National Beef Association which says the number of pre-August 96 born cows, forbidden to the food chain as part of the agreement with the European Commission which laid down conditions for the re-opening of the export market, turning up at commercial abattoirs has increased to levels which could soon attract the attention of EU inspectors.

“When the export market was re-opened last May the UK industry promised that all cattle born before the end of July 1996 would be processed through the Older Cattle Disposal Scheme (OCDS) and none would enter the food chain,” explained NBA chairman, Duff Burrell .

“However despite earlier, and repeated, advice that this rule was being broken the number of OCDS cattle turning up at food chain abattoirs is increasing, rather than decreasing, and with this comes the possibility of a hostile, and unwelcome, EU response.”

“It is amazing that four to six pre-August 1996 born cattle a week, some 250 in total since last May, are still being discovered by the check system in place at commercial abattoirs. The European Commission has already been alerted because one carcase entered the food system towards the end of last year and UK traders were embarrassed by the huge, and expensive, product recall that had to be set in operation.”

According to the NBA the European Commission is to send its FVO inspectors to check UK export procedures during a visit in March and evidence that more care is being taken over the handling of cattle that can only go into the OCDS will be at the top of their list.

“The precarious UK beef industry cannot afford to risk the chance of a hostile report and another export shut down because inspectors can find no evidence breeders are being careful to make sure no more mistakes are made,” said Mr Burrell.

“It is well understood that the original export ban was put in place for economic and political reasons and there is nothing to stop these hostile feelings re-surfacing if the UK 's beef market competitors are presented with a good excuse.”

”Our advice to everyone who keeps cows is to help the industry avoid this by sorting through their passports immediately and putting passports for pre-August 1996 born cows in a separate drawer with a red sticker.”

“Something around 130,000 cows are expected to go through the OCDS this year and sending the right cow, with the right passport, to the right abattoir is the first and most important part of the UK 's defence system against incorrect abattoir entry.

“Breeders, especially those who have already made this calamitous error, must take responsibility and make sure no more, potentially disastrous, mistakes are made. The number of cows turning up at the wrong abattoir must come down,” Mr Burrell added.

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