23 October 2000
‘Farmers need not fear BSE report’
THE National Beef Association has tried to reassure farmers that they have nothing to fear from the publication of the report into the BSE crisis.
The report will be published after a statement due to be made by agriculture minister Nick Brown in the House of Commons on Thursday (26 October).
Farmers are concerned that the document will revive the debate on BSE and raise questions over whether the disease could have been curbed earlier.
But NBA chairman Robert Robinson said he believed the report would not alter the positive attitude consumers have towards beef that is now on sale.
The public and media commentators will both continue to be reassured that the BSE epidemic, which peaked over 1992-93, is under control, he pledged.
The number of BSE cases is now falling at regular and predictable levels in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, said Mr Robinson.
This would mean those countries could soon be granted the same BSE status as France. “Their unwelcome period in the world spotlight should soon be over.”
Mr Robinson also said it was imperative that consumers recognised that victims of vCJD, the human form of BSE, had contracted the disease long ago.
They would have eaten BSE-infected tissue before a UK-wide ban on the inclusion of spinal cord and other offal material in retail products, he said.
“CJD must therefore be recognised as a historical disease that is claiming new victims only as a result of its lengthy incubation period,” said Mr Robinson.
However, he acknowledged that it is now impossible for farmers to dismiss the almost certain link between vCJD in humans and BSE in contaminated beef.
Nevertheless, scientists and other neutral monitors believe that British beef is “as safe, if not safer, than beef from any other country,” concluded Mr Robinson.