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Untested Cow Enters UK Food Chain

06 February 2009

UK - The Agency has been notified that a heifer aged two days over thirty months has entered the food supply without having been tested for BSE.

At the time this occurred, BSE testing was mandatory for cattle slaughtered for human consumption at over thirty months of age (since the beginning of this year, the BSE testing age has been raised to 48 months).

However, as specified risk material (SRM) was removed from the animal, and it is unlikely that the animal was infected with BSE, any risk to human health is very low. SRM is those parts of the animal that contain almost all BSE infectivity, if the animal is infected with BSE.

The heifer was slaughtered on 17 November 2008 at Higginshaw Abattoir (trading as Samuel Howarth Ltd) in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

The error was discovered on 14 January 2009 during routine cross checks of slaughter and BSE test data. By then, all the affected meat and offal had left the slaughterhouse. Subsequent checks indicate that all the product remained within the UK and is likely to have been consumed.

Background to BSE testing

Since the beginning of this year, the BSE testing age has been raised to 48 months. Cattle aged over 48 months are allowed to enter the food supply provided they have tested negative for BSE. If there is no BSE test, all parts of the carcase must be condemned.

Specified risk material (SRM) is those parts of the animal that contain almost all BSE infectivity, if the animal is infected with BSE. SRM includes the vertebral column of cattle aged over thirty months.


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