15 June 2001

Random EU scrapie tests on the way

RANDOM checks for scrapie in sheep and a reduction in the age for testing "at risk" cattle for BSE are to be introduced throughout Europe, as Brussels seeks to tighten its disease controls.

Sheep testing will be introduced from Jan 1 2002, EU vets decided on Wednesday (June 13). That is three months later than hoped for by the EU Commission, although the delay is necessary for logistical reasons. It will focus on animals over 18 months old, including those sent to abattoirs as well as fallen stock.

"This will give us more detailed information on this animal disease," said consumer affairs commissioner, David Byrne.

As from July 1, 2001, the age for testing cattle will be cut from 30 months to 24 months. "This is to provide an early warning system of any unfavourable trend in the incidence of BSE."

This will be reviewed in the light of results from the first six months tests, said the vets. They also agreed that the UK should test at least 50,000 over 30-month bovines "to obtain a better epidemiological picture", even though all such animals are systematically destroyed.

But there was disagreement in the standing veterinary committee over the commissions plan to extend the EU-wide ban on meat and bonemeal until next year.

"France, Germany and Austria rejected it because they wanted the ban made permanent," said a UK government source. "The UK abstained, because the proposal gives no guarantees that the ban on fishmeal will be lifted for ruminants. There is no scientific justification for this."

The matter of meat and bonemeal will, therefore, go to next weeks farm council in Luxembourg for a decision. &#42