8 November 2001
Fears grow over Continental BSE

By Adrienne Francis

MAD-COW disease may be spreading undetected across the channel because of unreliable tests at European abattoirs, it has been claimed.

Roy Anderson, of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee is concerned tests on cattle to detect BSE are missing the disease.

Urgent action was needed to verify results, he told the House of Commons Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Professor Anderson fears that the tests show BSE only in its later stages and not when animals may be incubating the disease, reports The Times.

“I want to know what the sensitivity of this test is, by the stage of incubation in the animal,” the paper reports him as saying.

The government is working with other European Union states to develop a more sensitive test “as soon as possible”, the paper reports.

The warning raises grave doubts over the safety of meat products containing beef produced on the Continent, particularly in France and Germany, it says.

Results to August this year show that of 4,154,659 tests on cattle entering the food chain in the European Union, 145 tested positive for BSE.

No cattle in the UK tested positive.

But David King, the governments chief scientist, told MPs that BSE still exists in the British beef herd, reports the Daily Mail.

The Daily Telegraph focuses on claims that the foot-and-mouth epidemic was much greater than it need have been.

The three-day delay in banning animal movements after identification of the first case of the disease, is blamed for the scale of the problem.

Mark Woolhouse, from the Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine in Edinburgh, said the epidemic could have been halved by swifter action.

If animals on infected premises had been slaughtered within 24 hours of the start of the epidemic, 40% of cases could have been prevented, he said.

Rural Affairs Secretary Margaret Beckett is set to be questioned by the select committee next Wednesday (17 November).

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