23 October 2001
Brussels steps in over BSE sheep

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

BRUSSELS is considering tighter food safety measures after Britains tests for BSE in sheep ended in fiasco, officials said on Tuesday (23 October).

More must be done to help counter the theoretical risk that BSE is present in UK sheep, warned European food safety commissioner David Byrne.

“To date our approach has been precautionary,” he told farm ministers in Luxembourg. “We now need to consider if further measures are necessary.”

Mr Byrne said European officials had hoped research results from the UK would shed important light on the need for extra precautions.

But British scientists mistakenly worked on cattle brains rather than sheep brains for the past four years, rendered the research results useless.

Mr Byrne said: “This is very disappointing and the continued uncertainty leaves us in a very difficult position.”

The European Commission is already planning to introduce random tests in sheep from January next year.

The aim is to improve the epidemiological picture of the incidence of scrapie which could be masking the presence of BSE.

But Mr Byrne said the time had now come to consider further measures and the commission would be making proposals shortly.

These are expected to include full traceability and an extension to the BSE-risk material which must be removed from sheep for human consumption.

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