5 January 2001

BSEtests are flawed – BMF

TESTS for BSE in over-30-months cattle that will become compulsory in the EU this year are flawed and could allow infected animals into the food chain, the British Meat Federation has warned.

New EU rules effective from January 1, prevent over-30-month cattle getting into the food chain unless they have tested negative for BSE.

But BMF director general Peter Scott said the tests currently used are not 100% effective.

"The tests do not work. They are effective at 48 months, but not at 30 months," he said. He fears that animals with BSE that does not show up in tests could therefore get into the food chain.

The EU Commission has stressed the validity of BSE-testing. The three tests currently in use were subject to rigorous evaluation, have performed excellently and are capable of detecting pre-clinical cases of BSE, it says. A further five post-mortem tests are currently being evaluated.

The BSE tests will not affect the UK directly as over-30-month cattle are banned. In the other member states, cattle that have not been tested will enter the purchase for destruction scheme until June 30, 2001. On July 1, compulsory testing of all EU cattle over thirty months will be introduced.

Some member states are already trying to establish routine testing. Ireland expects to have it up and running nationally in the next few days, while a few laboratories have started in France. Portugal intends to start from April 1 and Spain is already testing imported cattle from "high risk" BSE countries.