The advantages of traditional agriculture

David Welch welch at
Thu Mar 22 02:38:34 MST 2001


Age-old habits caused deadly cluster
Farmers, butchers and shoppers all played a part
Special report: BSE
James Meikle
Thursday March 22, 2001
The Guardian
The government is to order new checks on farming methods, food
preparation and the eating and buying habits of consumers in the 80s,
after new evidence that shows they all played a part in mixing the
lethal cocktail that developed into new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease (vCJD) - the human form of BSE.



The inquiry focused on how some local butchers used to process carcasses,
often using traditional techniques that were centuries old.

Butchers removed the brain from the beast - which was legal at the time -
as they recovered meat from the head. The carcass was then boned and
jointed. This meant that other meat could become contaminated by
potentially infectious brain material.

The inquiry also looked at techniques used at abattoirs. Cattle were
slaughtered using a "captive bolt stunner", which drives a bolt into the
animal's head. Many abattoirs also used a pithing rod - a rod inserted
through the hole made by the stunner, which can prevent the animal kicking
reflexively. Even before yesterday's report, fears had been raised that
pithing could spread BSE-infected tissue. Last year, the EU said the
technique should not be used.

Larger abattoirs tended to hose the carcass but smaller ones would only
wipe it down to remove unwanted tissue, raising the risk of
cross-contamination of meat with brain and nerve tissue.

In the early 80s there was no legal requirement to hose down a carcass;
indeed some slaughtermen believed that it made the meat go "sour".
Steven Morris

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