7 July 2000
MAFF awaits vets’ verdict on BSE case

By Isabel Davies

THE government says it will wait for a report from its veterinary advisors before it draws conclusions about how a dairy cow born after tighter controls on feed were introduced contracted BSE.

Farm minister, Nick Brown, announced last Thursday that a Holstein dairy cow born on 25 August, 1996 in a herd in Dorset had been confirmed as a BSE case.

The date is significant because it is the first case of BSE in an animal born after a complete ban on feeding mammalian meat and bonemeal (MBM) was implemented on 01 August, 1996.

So unless the animal was fed on rogue stocks of feed containing MBM, it raises the possibility that the animal became infected through maternal transmission.

But Mr Brown told a press conference at the Royal Show that the only conclusion that could be drawn from the incident was that surveillance had been very thorough.

And he pointed out that experts have always foreseen that a few cases of BSE could be confirmed in animals born after 01 August, 1996.

An assessment last year on behalf of the governments BSE advisory committee SEAC assumed that by the end of 2000 up to 19 cases born after August 1996 might have been identified.

Mr Brown was also keen to stress the Food Standards Agency had agreed that there are no implications for food safety.

The animal in question was aged 44 months at the time of slaughter so could not enter the food chain under the over 30-month scheme.

The infected cows calf has also since been traced and slaughtered.

Mike Attenborough, technical director for the Meat and Livestock Commission said the case showed the regulations brought in to deal with BSE were working and there was no threat to the consumer.

The NFU, fearful of the potential for a collapse in consumer confidence both home and abroad, stressed that it was just one case and said it was important to keep a sense of perspective.

The controls in place, such as the OTMS and selective cull of cohorts of BSE cases, were working because the number of BSE cases has plummeted in line with scientists predictions, said a union statement.

The State Veterinary Service will now carry out a special investigation to trace all cohort animals of the infected cow.