Undaunted by new warnings about mad cow disease, Britons rushed to their butchers Thursday to buy rib roasts and T-bones before a government ban on such cuts takes effect.
With the holidays only weeks away, butchers and retailers said the prospect of a ban of beef on the bone had, if anything, increased sales.
The news has “probably done us a favor,” said John Grabowski, owner of Bosworth Butchers in Loughton, 12 miles northeast of London.
Joe Collier sold a week’s worth of ribs in one day to customers in Berkhamsted, 28 miles northwest of London. One man, determined to maintain his rib habit, bought $335 worth.
The government decision Wednesday was based on advice from scientists who believe bovine spongiform encephalopathy - the scientific name for mad cow disease - can get into the human food chain through bone marrow.
A new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, the brain-wasting human equivalent of mad cow disease, has killed at least 20 people in Britain.
Traders at Smithfield, London’s wholesale meat market, said they would go on selling meat on the bone until the ban went into effect.
Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham said it would not be in force until the new year - but industry officials were urging butchers to implement the ban immediately in the interests of consumer confidence.
Many restaurants have taken T-bone steaks off the menu, and supermarket chains have removed bone-in beef from their shelves.
The National Federation of Meat and Food Traders called those actions premature, noting even the government had acknowledged the risk from eating meat on the bone was very small.
Scientists estimated there was a 5 percent chance of one person contracting the disease from eating meat with bones next year.
Britain’s beef industry has been depressed since March 1996, when the government announced the suspected link between mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The crisis has undermined the domestic market and, since the European Union banned British beef exports, has cost farmers their entire foreign market.
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