BSE-in-sheep research flawed

18 October 2001

BSE-in-sheep research flawed

By Adrienne Francis

TESTS on British sheep have uncovered no signs of BSE but recent experiments have exposed flaws in research from the 1990s.

Scientists were concerned that BSE may have passed from cows to sheep and then been mistaken for the related disease scrapie.

Tests by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), were conducted to test whether BSE was present in sheep.

Defra director of communications Lucian Hudson said results on about 180 affected sheep brains had shown no signs of BSE.

But he added: “Cross-checking has raised doubts about the viability of the original sample.”

It is feared that some sheep brains may have been contaminated by cattle brains, giving rise to inaccurate results.

A meeting of the governments BSE advisors has been postponed pending an independent scientific audit to establish the status of the samples.

“We will be working closely with the Institute for Animal health to clarify the issue,” said Mr Hudson.

“This does not affect the Food Standards Agencys view, which is not to advise against the eating of sheep meat.”


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