7 June 2001
BSE cases fall but TB marches on

By Isabel Davies

THE number of BSE cases has fallen to about 30 a week, but the advance of bovine TB is still a major cause of concern, the government has admitted.

An annual animal health report by Chief Veterinary Officer Jim Scudamore reveals a mixture of good and bad news for the livestock sector.

Tough measures introduced to eradicate BSE have worked well, and the latest figures suggested that the disease continues to decline in line with predictions.

At the peak of Britains BSE epidemic in early 1993, vets were recording about 1000 cases a week. This figure has now dropped to about 30 suspects.

“We are seeing a gratifying fall in the number of confirmed cases, and very small numbers of young animals with confirmed disease,” said Mr Scudamore.

More than 60% of herds with adult breeding cattle have never had a case of BSE, including 84% of beef suckler herds, the report revealed.

Herds with more than four cases of the disease accounted for nearly three-quarters of all cases recorded to date, it said.

But bovine TB is a growing problem, with cases up by 16% in 2000. Mr Scudamore said the advance of the disease was “still a major cause of concern.”

Although some parts of the country seem to be responding to control measures, other areas show an increase in infection rates yet again.

News on salmonella was better, despite claims by the Soil Association that drug residues in chicken and eggs posed a danger to public health.

The association, which promotes organic farming, claims 20% of all chicken meat and 10% of eggs contain unacceptable levels of anti-microbial drugs.

The report said full details of residues found in 2000 would not be available until the Veterinary Medicines Directorate published its annual report.

But it added: “in previous years, the results of the National Surveillance Scheme for 2000 indicated the number of residue positive samples remains low.”

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