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Only One European Beef Consignment Halted

Only One Consignment Halted By European Beef Import Ban

ONLY one small consignment of food has been denied entry to New Zealand since the Customs Service two weeks ago started checking all food imports suspected of containing European beef or beef products after the Ministry of Health banned European beef imports.

"We believe that only tiny quantities of European beef are eaten here. The risk to New Zealanders was already low and we have reduced the risk further with precautionary measures such as the import suspension and seeking a voluntary withdrawal of products by retailers," Ministry of Health Chief Advisor Safety and Regulation Bob Boyd said.

On 5 January New Zealand and Australian authorities announced the suspension of imports of beef and beef products from Europe as a precaution against the risk of transmission to humans of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, from people eating contaminated beef. In humans the disease is called variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (vCJD), a rare fatal brain disorder.

A small shipment of French veal stock, which was on its way to New Zealand when the import suspension was announced, is now isolated awaiting either re-export to France or destruction.

At the same time as imports were suspended, health authorities also asked retailers to voluntarily remove from their shelves any food products that may contain European beef. Retailers have so far identified and withdrawn only a tiny handful of products, reinforcing the Ministry's belief that minimal amounts of European beef are eaten in New Zealand.

"Retailers, importers and the Customs Service have all worked together on this to ensure that New Zealanders can remain confident about the safety of their food," Dr Boyd said.

He said retailers who had any doubts about what types of foods may contain European beef could look at either the list prepared by the Ministry of Health and Customs and available on the Ministry of Health web site, or they could look at a similar list on the Australia New Zealand Food Authority website. However, neither list contained details of specific products and retailers would still need to read information on the package or contact the importer or distributor of the product to confirm any possible European beef content.

Dr Boyd said anyone who had doubts about their food should read packaging labels to find out about the source of the beef, or ask the retailers who sold them the food about where it came from. If they still had doubts, they should dispose of the food in the rubbish and not feed it to people or animals.

Detailed information is available on the Ministry of Health website and the Australia New Zealand Food Authority website

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