Meat of cloned cow offspring enters British food chain

Last Updated: Wed, Aug 04, 2010 10:40 hrs

Meat from the offspring of a cloned cow has entered the British food chain, authorities have admitted for the first time.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that meat from the slaughtered three-year old bull was sold and eaten last year. It is thought the meat, likely to have ended up in a pie or burger, was sold in Scotland.

The admission comes despite two days of strong denials from both the FSA and the dairy industry that no milk or meat from cloned animals or their offspring had ever entered the food chain, reports the Telegraph.

Food from a cloned animal or the offspring of a cloned animal is illegal, according to the FSA.

Though there was widespread disagreement between the FSA and Brussels over the interpretation of the law with European officials - in charge of setting all British food safety laws - saying it was 'probable' that thousands of cheese and meat products on sale in British supermarkets had come from animals that were derived from clones.

An EU official said 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.

Millions of shots of semen are imported into Britain every year and the Department for Agriculture confirmed it did not monitor whether they were from cloned animals or not.

There is no evidence that eating milk or meat from an animal that has been cloned or its offspring is detrimental to human health but animal welfare campaigners argue the cloning process is very harmful for the animals themselves and produces sheep and cows with a shortened lifespan.

David Bowles, a spokesman for the Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), which opposes cloning, said: 'I am horrified that meat from a clone has already entered the food chain, without us knowing about it.

'Some unsuspecting person has eaten this meat. And we just don't know whether it is harmful for human health but we do know there are serious welfare issues. Cloned meat should not be on sale.'

The row over cloning erupted after an unnamed farmer claimed in an American newspaper that he had illegally sold milk from the offspring of a cloned cow.

This is yet to be proved but Holstein UK, responsible for registering all pedigree cows and bulls on farms, has confirmed that there are 97 calves in a herd in Scotland - all derived from the offspring of a cloned cow.

All the animals ultimately come from Vandyk-K Integ Paradise 2, a cloned cow in America. She was cloned using cells from the ear of a Holstein, a milking cow about five years ago.