British inspectors say BSE-contaminated meat may be on sale throughout Britain due to widespread slaughterhouse fraud, The Independent reports. The inspectors accuse slaughterhouses of swapping samples from carcasses to stop them failing tests to detect the disease.

The article says current rules call for brain stems of all cattle more than 30 months old to be checked, but some abattoir owners are suspected of substituting the brains of younger animals to ensure the meat is sold. Earlier this month, beef was removed from supermarket shelves across Britain because of the failure to test just one cow's brain for BSE.

Inspectors belonging to the public service union Unison reported the alleged practice at two British slaughterhouses, but believe the fraud may be widespread. A third case is under investigation in Northern Ireland, where a lab said DNA testing discovered samples taken from two cows could not be from animals more than 30 months old.

As of December 2005, 153 deaths have been attributed to variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the United Kingdom.
-- Joe Roybal