Irish on wrong side of new BSE figures

30 March 2001

Irish on wrong side of new BSE figures

IRISH meat eaters are 220 times more likely to have consumed beef from BSE-infected animals than their British counterparts last year, according to a new report from the Food Standards Agency.

The analysis, conducted by the Imperial College School of Medicine for the FSA, estimates that 346 animals carrying the disease were slaughtered in the Republic last year. About 159 of these would have been within 12 months of showing clinical symptoms. This compares with 52 such animals in France and just one in the UK.

"With no over-30-month rule in Ireland, the relative likelihood (of eating beef from BSE infected animals) in Ireland compared with Great Britain was 220," says the report. But it adds that because imports to the UK have to be from under-30-month animals and enforcement has been very effective, "the risk from eating imported Irish beef in 2000 was similar to that for UK beef".

The report also says that the removal of the specific risk materials in both countries greatly reduces the risk of spread to humans, while EU rules were introduced this year ensuring that over-30-month animals are now tested for BSE in all countries before entering the food chain.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland says it cannot fault the report scientifically, but claims Irish beef is just as safe as British beef because SRMs are removed in all Irish cattle over 12 months old and no animal has had access to meat and bonemeal since 1998.

Over a longer time period, the research shows that about 22,000 infected animals went into the Irish food chain between 1985 and 1996. This compares with over 900,000 in the UK, 7500 in France and 10,000 in Portugal. &#42

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