Independent watchdog the Food Commission is drawing up a hitlist of supermarket products containing “hidden” beef in an effort to widen the debate over BSE contamination.
The campaign group is advising worried consumers to cut back on processed meat products such as sausages, grills, burgers, soups, stews, stock cubes, and gravy powders.
It also plans to highlight the use of animal fats and gelatin – made from beef and pork bones and skin – in unexpected products such as cakes, desserts and jellies.
And it aims to draw attention to the use of beef in reconstituted meat products such as chicken nuggets and pork sausages, which may appear on school dinner menus where beef has been banned.
The latest scare over BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) or “mad cow disease” broke when a leading neuropathologist told the BBC he no longer ate beefburgers or beef offal, because of the risk of a link with the fatal human condition Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).
Last month the Government banned the use of cows’ backbones in the production of “mechanically-recovered meat” – beef scraped from carcases and used in burgers, pies and sausages – to protect consumers from potentially-infected spinal cord tissue.
Tim Lobstein, co-director of the Food Commission, said: “Sloppy laws on food packaging have contributed to this problem. We have to have a more transparent debate. That means a public enquiry, or the setting up of a Royal Commission.”
Meanwhile, chickens and pigs could become the subjects of the next “mad” scare, according to an Oxford University professor. Colin Blakemore, the University’s Waynflete Professor of Physiology, says BSE could be transmitted from cows to other species, through the feed chain, and then spread to humans.