4 January 2001
Mad cow test ‘chaos’ – inventor

DOUBTS have been raised about the effectiveness of an EU testing programme for BSE – by the founder of the company providing many of the tests.

From 01 January, EU member states are supposed to put cattle into the food chain only if they have passed a BSE test.

Under these, brain matter from slaughtered cattle is to be sent off for analysis and the results matched up with the correct carcass.

For this system to be effective, slaughterhouse traceability must be foolproof, and laboratories efficient.

Eleven of the 16 EU states will use a test developed by Swiss company Prionics.

But Prionics founder Dr Bruno Oesch told the BBC Farming Today logistics had to be up to scratch for the programme to be effective.

He said while the system seemed to be running smoothly in France, in other countries, such as Germany, the logistical problems made it chaotic.

“I dont think that from the start of the year that we have a guarantee. Jump starting the whole system within a few weeks is not possible,” said Dr Oesch.

He predicted that it would be the middle of next year before a clear picture would emerge as to the effectiveness of the testing.

Dr Oesch admitted that it was also theoretically possible that a BSE-infected carcass could infect others in the slaughterhouse through cross-contamination.

In the UK, cattle over 30 months old are not allowed to enter the food chain at all.