30 November 2001
BSE in sheep: Institute denies blame

By Alistair Driver

THE Institute of Animal Health insists it is not to blame for the collapse of a the BSE-in-sheep experiment despite being blamed by an investigation.

Two audits into how scientists studying BSE-in-sheep ended up using cattle brains pointed the finger at scientists at the institutes Edinburgh laboratory.

The audits, published on Friday (29 November), said documentation and sample labelling at the laboratory were inadequate.

Samples were stored there between a 1990 rendering experiment on cattle and sheep brains and the start of the BSE-in-sheep experiment in 1997.

Animal health minister Elliot Morley said the most likely scenario identified is that the samples were mixed up during that period.

“This experiment was unusual in that it involved material collected in the early 1990s for an entirely different study,” he said.

But the institute hit back, claiming in a statement: “There is no clear evidence for a mistake having been made at the IAH-E.”

The institute, which is doing its own audit, claims the mix-up could have occurred before the samples arrived at the institute.

It could also have happened at the company which concluded that the samples were 100% bovine when it checked them this autumn.

In a challenge to the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS) audit, the institute claimed that it had “comprehensive and documented formal procedures”.

It claimed UKAS based its findings on “unrepresentative and limited examination of procedures” at the institute.

It praised the other report by risk assessment company, Risk Solutions, which it said helps clarify what happened.