BSE report hits at feed industry role in epidemic
By Alistair Driver
CALLS for an EU-wide ban on the feeding of animal protein to livestock are growing after the publication of the BSE inquiry report.
The report criticised the UK feed industry for its part in the BSE epidemic. It blamed the epidemic on the practice of recycling animal protein in ruminant feed and said the UK feed industry "does not emerge from the BSE story with credit".
UKASTA, which represents UK feed companies, said its members are continuing to learn the lessons of BSE, which it now wants to share with other countries.
Farmers in the rest of the EU are not allowed to feed ruminant protein to ruminants, but can feed it to pig and poultry, unlike in the UK.
"We now see a danger that this national tragedy may be repeated in other countries," said UKASTA chief executive Jim Reed.
The Food Standards Agency increased the pressure when it said it is also concerned that the mistakes made in the UK could now be occurring elsewhere.
It will urge the EU Commission to take action to prevent cross contamination of animal feed in mills in countries where BSE is present in its review of BSE controls, due to be finalised on Nov 9. FSA chairman, sir John Krebs, pointed out, however, that the incidence of BSE is still lower in the rest of the EU. The risk of contamination is, therefore, less, he said.
Colin Breed MP, Lib Dem farm spokesman, and the retailer, the Co-op, both backed calls for a Europe-wide ban on the feeding of animal waste to animals. "In the light of the human and animal health issues raised by the Phillips Report into BSE, a Europe-wide ban on meat and bonemeal (MBM) is a sensible and necessary precaution," Mr Breed said.
Lord Phillips report said UK feed companies deliberately flouted a ban on the sale of ruminant feed containing MBM imposed in July 1988. At the same time farmers were using up feed bought before the ban.
Infection was also being spread through cross contamination in feed mills as MBM still being used in pig and poultry feed was getting into cattle feed.
In September 1990, specified bovine offals were banned from all animal feed. But the government, and particularly chief veterinary officer Keith Meldrum, failed to give the ban "proper thought", the report said.
The failure to realise that a small amount of infected material could transmit the disease was highlighted. As a result inadequate precautions were taken in slaughterhouses, renderers and feed mills to ensure infected bovine offal did not get back into feed.
"The SBO ban was unenforceable and widely disregarded," the report says. It was not until 1995, when the scale and cause of the BSE problem became apparent, that the regulations were revised and rigorously enforced. *
Former MLC director general Colin Maclean was accused in the BSE inquiry report of making misleading statements about the safety of beef.