NBA claims more than 15,000 tonnes of illegal beef sold in UK last year Allegations of illegal trading in imported beef from cattle aged over 30 months are at the centre of a new dispute between supermarkets and militant producers, and this time the multiples appear to have won the argument convincingly. The latest squabble started on Monday when the National Beef Association, a cattle farmers' organisation often highly critical of the multiples, claimed a significant proportion of beef imported from Ireland for "a wide range of British customers including front line supermarkets and burger manufacturers" was from animals above the legal age limit in this country. Most cattle aged over 30 months have been banned from the UK food chain as an anti-BSE measure since 1996, but were still permitted for human consumption in other EU states until Brussels prohibited them from January 1 in response to the crisis on the continent. Although suspected imports of over-30-month beef from France caused controversy a few weeks ago, the NBA's claim that "at least 15%" of Irish supplies to Britain were from older cattle was much more controversial because Ireland is by far the biggest source of imports. The NBA allegation implied more than 15,000 tonnes of beef illegal under the UK anti-BSE regulations had been sold here last year, much of it as Irish fresh cuts or burgers through supermarkets. This claim prompted predictable denials from the multiples. For instance Somerfield, which used quite large volumes of Irish meat for promotions last year, emphasised "all this was farm assured, under-30-month". The unusual feature of this dispute was intervention by Bord Bía, the Irish Food Board, which contacted the British media on Monday to refute the allegation just hours after the NBA issued its statement. "This is nonsense, based on completely wrong figures," said a Bord Bía spokesman. His comments were echoed by the chief executive of a major Irish owned processor and importer. {{MEAT }}