5 January 2001
Warning over BSE test failures

by Alistair Driver

TESTS for BSE in cattle over-30-months-old are inadequate and could allow infected animals into the food chain, the British Meat Federation has warned.

Peter Scott, BMF director general said that tests introduced under European Union rules implemented on 1 January, were not foolproof.

“The tests do not work. They are effective at 48 months, but not at 30 months,” he told Farmers Weekly.

The European Commission stressed the validity of its BSE-testing methods. It has given five tests the go-ahead and is evaluating five more methods.

Three tests currently in use are subject to rigorous evaluation, have performed excellently and are capable of detecting pre-clinical cases of BSE, it said.

The BSE tests does not affect British farmers directly because over-30-month cattle are already banned from the food chain in the UK.

But concern over the safety of BSE controls in sheep and imported meat products continues to worry consumers and the British media.

A front page lead story in the Guardian on Friday (5 January) reports that potentially contaminated meat has been passed as fit for human consumption.

The Food Standards Agency has admitted that it is worried by apparent lapses in control procedures but insisted that any breaches were isolated incidents.

A veterinary surgeon who failed to spot a sheep carcass containing spinal cord in a Devon abattoir has been suspended while the incident is investigated.

The breach of BSE controls was uncovered during State Veterinary Service checks in the a week before Christmas. The carcass has since been destroyed.

A Food Standards Agency spokesman said the investigation, which is continuing, indicates that the vet was at fault rather than the abattoir.

It was the third time in a year that risk material was found in cattle and sheep carcasses. The other incidents were in Northern Ireland and north west England.