19 September 2005
EXCLUSIVE: UP IN FLAMES
Tons of British aid donated to help Hurricane Katrina victims to be BURNED by Americans
From Ryan Parry, US Correspondent in New York
HUNDREDS of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.
US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.
Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption.
And unless the bureaucratic mess is cleared up soon it could be sent for incineration.
One British aid worker last night called the move "sickening senselessness" and said furious colleagues were "spitting blood".
The food, which cost British taxpayers millions, is sitting idle in a huge warehouse after the Food and Drug Agency recalled it when it had already left to be distributed.
Scores of lorries headed back to a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, to dump it at an FDA incineration plant.
The Ministry of Defence in London said last night that 400,000 operational ration packs had been shipped to the US.
But officials blamed the US Department of Agriculture, which impounded the shipment under regulations relating to the import and export of meat.
The aid worker, who would not be named, said: "This is the most appalling act of sickening senselessness while people starve.
"The FDA has recalled aid from Britain because it has been condemned as unfit for human consumption, despite the fact that these are Nato approved rations of exactly the same type fed to British soldiers in Iraq.
"Under Nato, American soldiers are also entitled to eat such rations, yet the starving of the American South will see them go up in smoke because of FDA red tape madness."
The worker added: "There will be a cloud of smoke above Little Rock soon - of burned food, of anger and of shame that the world's richest nation couldn't organise a p**s up in a brewery and lets Americans starve while they arrogantly observe petty regulations.
"Everyone is revolted by the chaotic shambles the US is making of this crisis. Guys from Unicef are walking around spitting blood.
"This is utter madness. People have worked their socks off to get food into the region.
"It is perfectly good Nato approved food of the type British servicemen have. Yet the FDA are saying that because there is a meat content and it has come from Britain it must be destroyed.
"If they are trying to argue there is a BSE reason then that is ludicrously out of date. There is more BSE in the States than there ever was in Britain and UK meat has been safe for years."
The Ministry of Defence said: "We understand there was a glitch and these packs have been impounded by the US Department of Agriculture under regulations relating to the import and export of meat.
"The situation is changing all the time and at our last meeting on Friday we were told progress was being made in relation to the release of these packs. The Americans certainly haven't indicated to us that there are any more problems and they haven't asked us to take them back."
Food from Spain and Italy is also being held because it fails to meet US standards and has been judged unfit for human consumption.
And Israeli relief agencies are furious that thousands of gallons of pear juice are to be destroyed because it has been judged unfit.
The FDA said: "We did inspect some MREs (meals ready to eat) on September 13. They are the only MREs we looked at. There were 70 huge pallets of vegetarian MREs.
"They were from a foreign nation. We inspected them and then released them for distribution."