13 June 2001
EU tests show no hidden BSE

By FWi staff

BSE test results on older cattle suggest that Europe is not facing a massive hidden epidemic of the disease, claim Government food safety watchdogs.

Out of 1.7 million healthy cattle screened under an EU testing programme in the first four months of the year, only 76 tested positive.

Compulsory testing on animals aged over 30 months — those most at risk from BSE — were introduced in January after outbreaks in France and Germany.

Most older cattle are kept out of the food chain in Britain under the Over Thirty Months Scheme. None of the 30 UK cattle tested proved positive.

Food Standards Agency chairman Sir John Krebs welcomed these early EU results, but warned against complacency.

“The figures are encouraging, and tend to indicate that there is no massive, hidden epidemic of BSE in Europe, but we cannot be complacent,” he said.

Sir John stressed that the FSA would continue with 100% checks on imported beef, after a string of breaches of controls in recent months.

The 76 healthy animals which tested positively included 22 in Spain out of 73,859 tested; 21 in France from 623,349; and 13 in Germany from 613,550 tested.

Ten positives were found in Belgium from 97,311 tested; seven in Italy from 64,351; two in Holland from 97,794; and one in the Ireland from 71,699 tested.

The FSA says that the number of actual BSE cases reported is higher than the number of cattle that test positive for BSE.

This is because the first figure includes all cases of BSE in all types of animal discovered by normal surveillance – not merely those diagnosed by testing.

On Wednesday (13 June) the FSA, with Consumers Association support, is launching a new leaflet to provide information for shoppers.

The leaflet, BSE and Beef, describes the BSE controls, lists where the spread of the disease and explains labelling.

In addition, a more detailed leaflet is available, BSE: a Food Standards Agency Guide, which explains what is currently known about BSE.

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