12 April 2002

All-clear on BSEfor muscle meat

MUSCLE meat has been given the all-clear by EU scientists, scotching recent fears that it could contain BSE.

The concerns were raised following US experiments, published last month, which showed that prions – the proteins responsible for diseases such as scrapie and BSE – had been found in the muscle tissue of mice that had been injected in the brain with two strains of scrapie.

But, following a detailed review of other studies, the EUs top scientists this week issued a statement saying there was no cause for alarm or any reason to change existing BSE controls.

Attempts to infect non-human primates with muscle tissue from CJD patients had failed, said the scientists. So had tests in which calves had been injected in the brain with muscle tissue from cattle that been fed BSE.

In a separate opinion, the scientists also confirmed that there was no need to extend the list of specified risk materials currently removed from sheep. &#42

given the lack of evidence of BSE in small ruminants.

"This is very reassuring," said Meat and Livestock Commission EU adviser, Helene Judge. "But it begs the question how the commission will deal with France, if it goes ahead with its unilateral ban on spinal cord in sheep over six months old."

France still plans to introduce this measure from July 1, which would have damaging implications for UK lamb exports.