30 October 2001
Brussels has faith in BSE scientists

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

EUROPEAN food safety commissioner David Byrne says Brussels still has faith in British scientists despite the botched tests for BSE in sheep.

Mr Byrne expressed disappointment that the research failed to deliver. But he added: I would not say British science has been undermined.

Mr Byrne said he was optimistic that rapid tests for BSE-type diseases such as scrapie would soon be available once they had been properly validated.

Further rapid tests are being developed that could distinguish between scrapie and BSE in sheep, he said.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is preparing proposals to tighten up on controls governing meat destined for human consumption.

The most likely outcome will be an increase in testing to learn more about the age profile of scrapie-infected animals.

This could be tied in with a flock certification system, to ensure that meat supplies for the food chain are BSE- and scrapie-free.

Mr Byrne has also suggested extending a list of specified risk materials to be removed from sheep carcasses at meat plants.

This has prompted fears that whole spines would have to be removed from lambs something France is introducing unilaterally from next January.

A new report from the scientific steering committee says this will only be necessary if new evidence shows that BSE in sheep is probable.

Mr Byrne said the information would be evaluated very carefully. He added: Consumer confidence is at stake, so we cant afford to get this one wrong.

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