Cloned beef entered UK food chain: confirmed

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 5th August 2010

Friesian-Holstein cowThe UK’s Food Standards Agency has released a statement confirming that meat from the offspring of a cloned cow has been sold to consumers in the UK. Related claims of dairy from the offspring of cloned animals being sold have not yet been substantiated.

While meat and dairy from cloned animals has been approved in the United States for two years, the UK regulations consider it a ‘novel food’: a food or food ingredient that does not have a significant history of consumption in the EU before 15 May 1997. All novel foods in the UK must be assessed by an independent committee of scientists appointed by the FSA.

“While there is no evidence that consuming products from healthy clones, or their offspring, poses a food safety risk, meat and products from clones and their offspring are considered novel foods and would therefore need to be authorised before being placed on the market,” said an FSA statement.

The controversy leads back to a cow, Vandyk-K Integrity Paradise 2, who was cloned from cells taken from a prize-winning Holstein cow. The cloned cow was inseminated by a prize-winning US bull, then the embryos were flown to the UK. Six of the eight embryos survived to maturity, three bulls and three cows.

The FSA confirmed today that meat from two of the bulls, Parable and Dundee Paratrooper, was sold for human consumption, with the Telegraph reporting that it was likely to have been sold in Scotland, probably in pies or burgers. The third bull, Dundee Perfect, was slaughtered on July 27th, but meat from this animal was prevented from entering the food chain.

The fate of the three cows is still being determined. Only one has been visited by local authority officials, and the FSA has “been informed that there is no evidence milk from this animal has entered the food chain.” Two other cows have yet to be seen by officials.

A report from the UK Press Association, based on data from breed society Holstein UK, suggests that between them, the six cattle may have produced almost 100 calves. The FSA rushed to allay fears by pointing out that these offspring will be too young to be milked or to be used for breeding purposes, and stated that they were working to trace the animals.

The question of meat and dairy from cloned animals has been a source of controversy between the UK and the EU, with the FSA previously denying that any cloned products were available for sale, but the Department of Agriculture confirming it does not check whether the millions of semen shots imported into the UK are from cloned animals.

An EU official told the Telegraph that because there were no restrictions on importing semen which had come from a cloned animal, it was possible that thousands of pigs and cows in Europe were the offspring of cloned animals.

Currently, Australia has very few cloned animals, none of which are part of the food chain.