5 April 1996

Not policing SBO rules may account for post-ban BSE

By Shelley Wright

GOVERNMENTS failure to police its own specified bovine offal rules could offer one explanation for the 25,000 cases of BSE in cattle born after the 1989 feed ban.

Kevin Taylor, MAFFs assistant chief vet, told the Veterinary Public Health association conference in Leeds that in 1994 MAFF worked out how much SBO there should be based on the number of cattle slaughtered. But when officials checked the volumes they found that only 50% of the expected SBOs were actually found.

Though there was no chance of all the missing SBO having ended up in the human food chain it could certainly have gone into animal feed, Mr Taylor admitted. The rules banning cattle SBOs from any animal feed were introduced in 1990 after the discovery that BSE could be transmitted experimentally to pigs.

And if the SBOs that should have been incinerated were included in animal feed, then that could explain why cattle born after the 1989 ban on feeding ruminant protein to ruminants developed BSE.

Peter Soul, operations director of the Meat Hygiene Service, denied the MHS was to blame. He said that although there was an MHS inspector in every abattoir, "they have a number of jobs to do and cannot spend all their time making sure the plant is complying with the SBO rules".

Compliance with the rules was the responsibility of the abattoir, he added. But there was no chance that SBOs went into the human food chain, because MHS staff inspected all meat destined for human consumption.

Vets at the VPHA conference found Mr Taylors admission that 50% of the expected SBOs had vanished extremely worrying. One said it was as clear an indication as possible that the level of inspection at abattoirs was totally inadequate. "This is exactly why we as vets are crying out for the MHS and State Veterinary Service to be properly funded," he said.

Mr Taylor said that since the 1994 audit, SBO monitoring had been tightened up and the expected volumes were now being discarded. But he admitted that more than 3% of abattoirs this year had still failed to remove all traces of spinal cord from carcasses. The figure was a marked improvement from last autumn but any cases of incomplete removal of spinal cord was absolutely unacceptable. &#42