31 May 2000
BSE ahead for ‘clean’ EU states

EU countries until now rated BSE-free will show significant signs of the disease in coming months, claims a new report.

The EU scientific steering committee says BSE is more widely spread than officially admitted in countries like Spain, Italy and Germany.

Germany has been rated a high level, three, by the EU report, which means BSE is present at levels which cannot be detected at the moment.

Infection could have been introduced into Germany from the 13,000 cattle imported from the UK in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Imported meat and bonemeal could be another source.

But as yet Germany has no controls on specified risk material (SRM), such as the brain and spinal cord, thought most likely to contain the BSE agent.

EU specialist Roger Waite of Agra Facts told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme that the report marked a significant shift.

“This is first time anyone has openly said that countries such as Germany, Spain and Italy, although they havent found a case of BSE within their native herds, probably have BSE within their cattle, but that it simply hasnt come out yet.”

Next week the standing veterinary committee will vote on proposals to bring in EU-wide rules on SRM.

Germany has argued that as it does not have a BSE problem it neednt take additional precautions, such as those proposed on SRM.

Mr Waite believes that, in the light of the new report, Germany will have to go along with most EU countries which feel these measures should be in place in all member states.