December 01, 2003
Reintroduction of Over 30-Month Beef In UK Faces Delay
Reintroduction of over 30-month beef to the food chain in the United Kingdom faces a delay until autumn 2004.
This leaves little time to get the system up and running before culling reaches its yearly peak, industry leaders have warned.
Chief executive of the National Beef Association, Robert Forster, said he had learned that the Department of Health (DoH) was still examining the Food Standards Agency's risk analysis to allow beef born after August 1 1996, to be used for human consumption.
"It started looking at this in September, and we were hoping they would have completed their work by now," said Mr Forster.
"We had been hoping for a June start for older beef entering the market - that seems to be slipping."
Once the expected go-ahead by the DoH was given, it would still take about six months to clear all the procedures to allow OTM beef back into the food chain, said Mr Forster.
"It's a bit of a worry, as the highest numbers of disposals always occur in the autumn."
"The best time to begin dealing with this beef would be well before then, to allow people time to get organised. An earlier start would also give a good signal for export negotiations."
The delay made the provision of an adequate market support scheme to smooth the path of an expected 185,000t of older beef on to the market even more vital, said Mr Forster.
"To help protect prices, it is important to give processors the confidence that they will not be left with unsaleable beef," said Mr Forster.
A Defra spokesman said he could not confirm whether the reintroduction of older beef into the food chain would take longer than previously thought.
"We are really in the hands of health ministers," he said. "Although it wouldn't surprise me if it went on a bit longer."
Till date, no one was available at the DoH to comment.