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US Rejects British Hurricane Relief Meals

based on a report by Jamie Wilson. October 15, 2005

More than 400,000 packaged meals sent by Britain to feed victims of Hurricane Katrina at a cost of nearly £2.7m ($4.8 million) have been sitting in a warehouse in Arkansas because of fears of mad cow disease and a long-standing ban on British beef.

The state department is said to be looking for a needy country to take the meals, which are costing the American taxpayer more than $16,000 a month to store and are due to pass their use-by date in early 2006.

With the fallout from the hurricane continuing to haunt the US authorities, the tale of the British meals was yesterday being held up as an example of the slow, inefficient and at times wasteful response to the worst natural disaster to strike the US in living memory.

According to the Washington Post, no fewer than six federal agencies or departments had a role in accepting, distributing and finally rejecting the food. At one point the meals, routinely eaten by British troops and comprising high-calorie foods such as burgers, sausages, beans and cheese, were shipped to 14 locations in Louisiana before being sent back to Arkansas.

The food's journey began on September 5, when it was stacked on pallets and flown by chartered aircraft the 4,400 miles to Arkansas. It was then shipped the 355 miles to New Orleans, with agriculture department inspectors in hot pursuit. They had received a belated warning that the donated food might need checking. Flooding prevented the inspectors from reaching four shelter sites and, according to the Washington Post, by the time they reached 10 others 115,000 packs had already been distributed. The remaining shipments were turned around and sent back to Arkansas.

You have been reading excerpts from "US rejects British hurricane relief meals over BSE fears" by Jamie Wilson. You can read the entire piece here: tinyurl.com/bzfc6. Thanks to Guardian Unlimited. We visit guardian.co.uk often and we hope you will too.

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