24 May 2002

Sheep gut risks – FSA

SHEEP intestines should be added to the list of specified risk materials and removed from the food chain throughout Europe, according to a report from the Food Standards Agency BSE and Sheep Stakeholders group.

FSA chairman John Krebs said the move would be a proportionate response given the gaps in scientific knowledge on the links between BSE and scrapie.

"While no sheep alive today are likely to have been exposed to any original source of infectivity, the theoretical risk that BSE could be present in sheep by virtue of transmission, and masked by scrapie, remains."

Sir John said banning sheep intestines, which account for around 15% of sausage casings in a trade worth £6.5m to abattoirs, would only be effective on a pan-European basis given that sausages could still be imported.

Any ban would be reviewed in the light of ongoing research into the effectiveness of processing casings to remove lymph tissue, he added.

But the recommendations contradict a recent opinion from the EU scientific steering committee, which said there was no need to extend the list of sheep SRMs.

The full FSA board will consider the report in June. The stakeholders group is also seeking increased publicity on the higher theoretical risk from eating mutton, and country of origin labelling on baby food containing lamb. &#42