French question BSE detection
FRENCH Ministry of Agriculture officials have raised doubts over the sensitivity of BSE detection methods used by other countries.
They claim the "sensitivity of the detection system for BSE in France (about 1 in 5m a year) is at a level which is only exceptionally attained even in the epidemic surveillance of humans".
And in a report produced by the French ministrys food directorate, they say: "It is difficult not to harbour doubts about countries where the detection system is poorly representative or totally absent."
No countries are named. But the report adds that "these doubts apply even more strongly to countries whose epidemiological factors are very similar to those of France.
"It goes without saying that France is not the only country with dairy herds of great production potential which has used animal protein additives and imported British MBM (meat and bonemeal) directly or indirectly," the report states.
It also raises doubts over the BSE-free status of some countries. It notes that the theory that BSE existed well before the British epidemic in the form of isolated or sporadic cases "is gaining increasing corroboration from the more precise studies made into the nature of the BSE prion".
"The confirmation of this hypothesis would call into question the claim made by all countries declaring themselves to be free of BSE infection," it adds.
"Thus if the disease has existed in a sufficiently sporadic state to remain unnoticed for a long time after the appearance of scrapie, it is very likely that many countries are already infected without being aware of it."
Twenty-four cases of the disease have been confirmed in France. And the report concludes that with one of the biggest cattle populations in the EU the country has the lowest absolute and relative number of BSE cases among those countries with declared cases.
"The results show that they (the French authorities) are capable of successfully implementing a policy of detecting outbreaks and systematically eradicating the cases of such a rare disease," it claims. *