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Countries cut Polish beef imports after 'sick cow' scandal as EU begins inspection

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Countries cut Polish beef imports after 'sick cow' scandal as EU begins inspection
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Several countries started to reduce the amount of beef imported from Poland in the wake of a "sick cow" scandal at an abattoir in the country, Reuters said on Monday, citing the head of the meat producers lobby.

Secret filming by broadcaster TVN revealed last week that unwell animals were being killed at a slaughterhouse situated 112km east of Warsaw.

Euronews learned meat from the abattoir went to Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden.

"Many countries are limiting their imports," head of the Polish Meat Association, Witold Choinski, told reporters but said no member states had completely cancelled meat imports from Poland.

He did not specify the names of countries or information concerning the size of the cuts.

What's more, Polish beef prices have started to fall significantly in recent days, Jacek Zarzecki, president of the Polish cattle producers lobby told reporters.

"If this tendency continues, producers could lose about 600 million zloty (around €139 million) this year," he said.

European Union investigators began a weeklong inspection on Monday based on the TVN report.

Two investigators looked through documents and held talks with meat safety officials, Poland's top veterinarian, Pawel Niemczuk, told a news conference. They will meet local veterinary inspectors and visit slaughterhouses later in the week, he added.

Polish law requires for a veterinarian to be present at slaughterhouses, which was not the case at the abattoir in question.

Officials in the country also opened a probe but said their tests had not found any signs of disease or danger to consumers and that they had only pulled meat from the market as a precaution.

“There were no sick cows, only the culling procedures have been broken,” said AP, quoting Agriculture Minister Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski.

Later on Monday, Poland reported a case of atypical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) among cattle on a farm near the Czech border in the southwestern town of Mirsk, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

The infected animal was slaughtered, it said, adding it is possible for atypical BSE to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate and the outbreak does not impact Poland's BSE risk status.

Poland produces about 560,000 tonnes of beef a year, 85% of it for export.

The last known case of BSE in the country dates back to March 2013, the OIE said.