Watchdogs threaten British banger over BSE

by SEAN POULTER, Daily Mail

Some of the best-loved varieties of British banger are in danger of being banned, it emerged yesterday.

In a move that has enraged butchers and manufacturers, food watchdogs are threatening to outlaw sausages with skins made from sheep intestines.

Advisors at the Food Standards Agency claim there is a theoretical risk that BSE has passed to sheep, even though there is no evidence that it exists in the national flock.

They have recommended a suspension of the sale of sheep intestine sausages, which equates to 15 per cent of the UK market and sales worth £80million a year.

The move threatens to destroy a recent resurgence in the popularity of sausages, particularly traditional varieties and new designer versions including fruits and herbs.

Sausage-makers immediately condemned the proposal as an overreaction, likening it to the ill-fated decision to ban the sale of beef on the bone, which the Government was forced to drop.

Sheep intestines are used to make an estimated 25,000 tonnes of sausages a year, equivalent to tens of millions of individual sausages.

They are most commonly used in the production of chipolatas, because of their thin skin and narrow diameter. But they are also used to make larger varieties with lamb, pork and beef fillings.

The FSA advice came from a committee comprising figures from the world of science, farming, the food industry and consumer groups.

It is known that sheep were given the same feed which caused mad cow disease in cattle. It has also been shown in the laboratory that sheep can become infected. But it has never been shown that BSE exists in the sheep in the country's fields, although testing to date has been minimal.

FSA chairman Sir John Krebs, who sat on the committee, said: 'BSE and sheep remains an extraordinarily difficult challenge because of the gaps in scientific knowledge.

'The risk could be zero, but at the other end of the scale the risk could be substantial.'

The final decision on whether to pursue a ban will be taken by the FSA board in June, which would in turn recommend the EU to implement it throughout Europe. Bill O'Hagan, from Sussex, who has run a sausage business for 14 years, said: 'I really cannot see that there is any need to panic in this way.

'The sausages are heated to extremely high temperatures in the frying pan or under the grill. There is absolutely no cause for concern.'

He vowed to fight any attempt to make him switch to the man-made alternative to intestines - a plasticlike coating created from collagen removed from the hide of cows.

'To my mind, these are far more horrific than natural skin,' he said. 'They are made with all sorts of artificial chemicals.'

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