18 January 2002

BSEscare starts passport moves

GOVERNMENT officials have been told to track down all passports of cattle awaiting for slaughter under the BSE offspring cull after the calf of a BSE-infected cow passed into the foodchain.

The animal was sold at an abattoir in North Wales in November and a DEFRA spokeswoman told FARMERS WEEKLY that it was one of a backlog of over 500 BSE offspring awaiting slaughter on farms in the UK. "How many of these still have passports is unknown," she admitted, "But the position will be clarified within days."

DEFRAs animal health divisional officers are supposed to remove the cattle passport from the animals owner when they visit the farm to hand over the movement restriction order. But when the order was imposed on the case in Wales last year, it was sent by post rather than delivered by hand to minimise the risk of spreading foot-and-mouth. &#42

disease.

Cattle owners who received restriction orders through the post should have sent the animals passport to the local animal health divisional office. "In this case, that did not happen for whatever reason and the sale of the animal was against the law. DEFRA must now consider legal action," said the DEFRA spokeswoman.

The Food Standards Agency said that the risk to public health was minimal as there was no evidence to suggest the animal had BSE. FSA veterinary director Debby Reynolds said: "This is a regrettable incident. We want to see the cull of offspring of BSE animals backlog cleared as a priority; the passports of these animals surrendered immediately."

The NFU said it wanted to know how the stringent measures that were in place to stop this kind of incident had failed. And the union added that the backlog of animals awaiting slaughter must be prioritised