29 August 1997

MAFF – no evidence for mad hens

MAFF has found no evidence to support an independent scientists claims that he found BSE in two chickens.

Harash Narang prompted Press speculation earlier this year over the possibility that BSE might have passed to chickens after he claimed to have found evidence of the disease in two hens.

Dr Narang said he had found what "must be regarded as very strong evidence demonstrating that the hens had been incubating spongiform encephalopathy".

MAFF asked him to supply brain tissue samples from the birds for examination at the Veterinary Laboratories Agency (VLA) at Weybridge and Lasswade.

In a letter to the Veterinary Record Richard Cawthorne, MAFFs assistant chief vet, said the VLAs investigations revealed no evidence of spongiform change. But there was evidence in one brain of a disease called meningoencephalitis.

"In view of the high profile of this investigation, we delayed communication of our results until the material had been further examined by an independent neuropathologist expert in the field," said Dr Cawthorne.

"That report has now been received and the interpretation is in agreement with that of the specialists at the VLA.

"We do not, therefore, consider that either of the birds in question was affected with a transmissible encephalopathy."

The results of the investigations were consistent with the unpublished results of experiments, where attempts to transmit BSE to poultry had failed, added Dr Cawthorne.