13 November 2000
‘Don’t sneer at French BSE panic’

By FWi staff

BRITISH consumers should not look smugly at the national panic in France over BSE, claims The Times.

In its editorial, the newspaper considers whether, if there had been a greater outcry in the UK sooner, “a terrible pain” could have been avoided.

And unless its statistics are wildly inaccurate, the French BSE problem is “minute”, says The Times.

Despite destroying 4.5 million cattle since 1986, Britain still recorded 178,000 new cases of BSE this year, it says.

In contrast, only 200 cases have been detected in France this year, and less than 200 overall.

It calls on the EU veterinary committee to bring forward, from 1 April next year, the date for implementing precautions already agreed.

It warns: “Act in haste, repent at leisure is a motto dear to every bureaucrat, but in the case of BSE that attitude was disastrous for Britain.”

The same newspaper reports that the French government is expected to impose a temporary ban on feeding meat and bonemeal to livestock this week.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that scientists are close to developing an accurate blood test for the human form of BSE.

Experts at Proteome Sciences are working with the Government for a test which would allow doctors to diagnose variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD).

This would be done years in advance of patients developing symptoms and help predict the final number of victims.

In another development, The Times reports that half the surgical instruments used for tonsil operations could be contaminated with vCJD.

John Collinge of Imperial College School of Medicine in London, said his claim was based on estimates form surgeons.

There has long been concern that vCJD is far more resistant to heat cleaning and sterilisation than normal bacteria or viruses, reports The Times.