Meat company wins judicial review

As the BSE controversy still rages and new moves are taken to ban British beef from the dinner tables of the world, controls already introduced with the intention of allaying public concern are scheduled to come under attack in the High Court.

Just before the storm broke, Great Harwood Food Products of Great Harwood, Lancashire, was given the green light for a courtroom confrontation with the Government over a ban on cattle vertebrae in mechanically recovered meat, removed from the bones of carcases by suction or blasting.

Great Harwood, which produces mechanically removed meat for burgers, pies, sausages and soups, won the right to seek judicial review of the ban.

The arguments put forward in its application indicate a challenge on the basis that the Government's stance is "disproportionate, irrational and unreasonable" and that it conflicts with both domestic and European law. It says the ban poses a serious threat to its business and jobs.

The ban was introduced last December by agriculture minister Douglas Hogg in the wake of increasing concern over the dangers of British-grown beef. Hogg claimed he was acting on the best possible advice.

Spot checks on slaughter houses had revealed that almost half the premises checked were not complying fully with laid-down procedures.

Mr Justice Buxton, in giving leave for Great Harwood to bring a full-scale challenge at the High Court, held that the company had an arguable case.

No date was fixed for the case to be heard but in view of its importance the hearing was expected to jump the list and be heard in the near future.

In the light of the latest controversy over BSE it seems set to take on a far higher profile than would originally have been anticipated.