About one in 5 chickens and one in 10 eggs in Britain contain traces of drugs that may cause cancer, birth defects or heart attacks, according to The Soil Association, a group that promotes organic farming.

Richard Young, coordinator of the association?s campaign against the overuse of antibiotics in intensive farming, said that drugs used to control intestinal parasites in poultry posed the most serious threat. ?Despite repeated assertions by regulators that nearly all poultry products are free from detectable residues, figures clearly show that about 20 percent of chicken meat and 10 percent of the eggs tested contain residues of drugs deemed too dangerous for use in human medicine,? he says.

Meanwhile, experts in Mad Cow Disease have said that BSE-contaminated beef could still be reaching the British market. Cattle more than 30 months old, which cannot enter the food chain because they are old enough to have been exposed to BSE, are slaughtered in the same abattoirs as animals being sold for meat, meaning there is the possibility of cross-contamination.

Professor Brian Heap, of the Academy of Medical Sciences, says, ?Urgent consideration needs to be given to the possibility of cross-infection in the few abattoirs in the U.K. that handle both the slaughter of animals for food and the culling of cattle aged over 30 months that may be incubating BSE.

?Since cattle aged over 30 months are culled because they might be infected with BSE, we need to establish conclusively that work surfaces and equipment in abattoirs are not contaminated after the usual cleaning and sterilization procedures.?

European rules forbid slaughtering animals under the 30-month rule and animals for food on the same day. In between, the premises and equipment must be cleaned. But the prions responsible for Mad Cow Disease are tough, and can even live through the high heat of sterilization. They survive conditions that would easily kill bacteria and viruses.

There is also the problem of disposing of the waste materials, such as bone meal and tallow. Some have suggested using meat-digesting bacteria to do the job.

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