5 December 2000
European BSE test ‘inadequate’

By FWi staff

TESTS to establish if older cattle on the Continent are free of BSE have been dismissed as “quite inadequate” by an expert on the disease.

On Monday (04 December), EU farm ministers agreed to a series of measures to quell consumer fears over BSE on the Continent.

They decided to ban meat and bonemeal in all animal feed by 1 January, for an initial period of six months.

It was also agreed to let cattle aged over 30 months into the Continental food chain if they are cleared of BSE following a post-mortem test.

But scientists have written to EU food safety commissioner David Byrne voicing concerns about the reliability of tests to detect BSE in older cattle.

Microbiologist Dr Stephen Dealler said the tests were “very good” at their intended purpose of establishing if an animal had died of BSE.

But in cows without symptoms, they become much less accurate, he claimed, and in 30-month-old cattle produce huge number of false negatives.

“The tests weve got at the moment are quite inadequate to test cows to say they are not infected,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

“You cannot test cows without symptoms and declare they are not infected. It cannot be done.”

Dr Dealler estimated that, for every cow which goes down with BSE, a further six are eaten without showing any symptoms.

He called for the British over 30 months scheme, which prevents older cattle entering the food chain, to be introduced across the EU.