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Danger Chinese beef goes up in flames after raid.

Byline: By Adam Jupp

Illegally-imported meat destined for North East restaurants and takeaways

Bogus beef smuggled into the North East has gone up in smoke after a warehouse raid.

The illegal meat had been sneaked in from China and was destined for restaurants and takeaways across the region.

But trading standards officers from Northumberland County Council swooped to seize the banned food, worth pounds 4,000, from a storage unit in Bedlington.

Inspectors from the Food Standards Agency were called in to inspect the 'Acrid Tang' beef fat, which belonged to an Oriental food wholesaler.

And amid fears it contained diseases and dangerous levels of chemicals, they ordered its destruction and the haul went up in flames.

Jim Rutter, head of Northumberland County Council trading standards, said: "Animal by-products from China are subject to fairly strict protective measures due to shortcomings in their veterinary medicine regulations and control systems in live animals in China.

"We worked closely with the Food Standards Agency and after these were analysed, the product was destroyed by incineration."

Officers from Northumberland County Council found pallets of a beef product which had been imported from China during a routine inspection of the warehouse space.

The unit was being rented by an Oriental food wholesaler and the owner of the warehouse had nothing to do with the illegal product.

The Acrid Tang beef fat is used for Oriental cookery and is a key ingredient in many dishes, such as battered Dim Sum items.

But the wholesaler was unable to prove any evidence that the food had been tested in China for diseases or antibiotics that are banned in the European Union.

Products sneaked in from China often contain residues of chloramphenicol, which is a chemical used in drops to treat conjunctivitis.

A pallet-and-a-half of the product was confiscated, which would have been worth around pounds 4,000.

It is believed the wholesaler planned to sell it on to restaurants and takeaways to use in their cooking. As well as this market value loss, the council can bill the wholesaler for the destruction of the product.

Mr Rutter added: "Laws like this are there for a good reason.

"We have to be alert to the possibility of harmful residues including chloramphenicol in such products.

"Although in this case the product contained beef, similar controls are in place prohibiting the import of other meat and meat products including poultry and other bird products from China due to recent concerns over avian flu.

"Trading standards officers are constantly on the look-out for illegally imported foods during the routine course of their inspections. This may be at a warehouse, takeaway, restaurant or any other business involved in the food chain.

"If they find such products they have the power to confiscate and have it destroyed."

A spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency said: "The Food Standards Agency is delighted to hear that Northumberland County Council have successfully intervened and controlled certain products thought to be illegally introduced from China.

"In order to protect public health it is important that all animal products, intended for human consumption, imported into the country are produced, tested, stored, packed and transported in hygienic conditions.

"It is important that any product not meeting the legal standards is removed from the market and destroyed."

Sow Fong Cole, of the North East Chinese Association, told the Chronicle beef fat products like the ones seized were formerly used to make a lot of Oriental dishes.

She added: "It used to be used a lot in the 1970s. You used to be able to buy big boxes of it in Chinese supermarkets.

"Some people prefer beef fat to oil because it lasts longer but a lot of people cook with vegetable oil instead these days because it is healthier.

"I think it is still used a lot for a lot of Dim Sum dishes."
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 16, 2007
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