15 March 2002

BSE cases wont spoil exports bid

By Isabel Davies

MINISTERS are confident that 14 unexplained cases of BSE in young cattle will not be an obstacle in their bid to get changes to the rules on beef exports.

At a briefing in London on Mon, Mar 11, junior DEFRA minister Elliot Morley said the UK was heading for a situation where it had a very low level of BSE and indicated the case for a review of the Date Based Export Scheme was strong.

"I think we are within our rights to ask for a review of the measures in the Date Based Export Scheme given the fact the level of risk in the UK is becoming comparable with the risk in other member states."

During 2001, 795 cases of BSE were detected in the UK, compared with 37,056 in 1992.

Mr Morley said the government wanted to know why some cattle have developed the disease even though they were born after meat and bonemeal was banned from feed on Aug 1, 1996.

But the minister said it would take a sharp increase in the number of "born after the ban" cases to worry the EU vets considering the case for a change in rules and that seemed unlikely.

Officials are following up the theory put forward by John Wilesmith of the Veterinary Laboratories Agency last month that the most likely source ofthe cases is feed which became contaminated with meat and bonemeal (MBM) during shipping.

Peter Soul, head of DEFRAs veterinary division, said at least six out of the 14 animals were fed rations known to have contained imported ingredients.

"We are trying to establish which particular ships were involved in the importation of feed ingredients that went into the feed that went to these cases," he said. &#42