LONDON – Cattle born or raised in the United Kingdom before Aug. 1, 1996, are subject to new movement restrictions as an extra precaution against meat from these older cattle entering the food chain. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), these restrictions are being placed following a government investigation into whether any illegal trade in these cattle has occurred.

DEFRA has notified 18,000 keepers with animals this age of the new measures. DEFRA says, however, controls to prevent these animals from entering the food chain are already strong. For example, it is against the law to slaughter pre-1996 animals for food, plus specified risk material (SRM) such as brain and spinal cord is removed from all cattle after slaughter. Any cattle aged over 48 months are tested for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) after slaughter and only those that test negative are allowed into the food chain.

“I regret that due to what appears to be illegal activity by a few individuals, this has been [deemed] necessary,” said Jim Paice, agriculture minister. “The industry has worked hard over the years to ensure British beef regained the good reputation it deserves, both at home and abroad.

“We want to maintain this reputation, so it’s sensible to introduce this extra safeguard,” he added. “It shouldn’t have much impact on most cattle keepers, but it will give us additional confidence that these animals don’t enter the food chain.”

Based on the terms of the new restrictions, relevant livestock keepers are being informed that no cattle born or reared in the UK before August 1996 will be allowed to move from their holdings without an individual movement license, and no licenses will be granted to move these cattle to markets or through dealers. This, in practice, should affect a relatively small number of owners, DEFRA iterated.