NBA sceptical about new BSE fears

29 August 2000

NBA sceptical about new BSE fears

By FWi staff

NEW research suggesting BSE could jump the species barrier without obvious symptoms has been dismissed by a leading beef industry figure.

Professor John Collinge of the Medical Research Council prion unit showed the prion protein thought to cause BSE can cross from hamsters to mice.

Mice were found to harbour the disease throughout their lives without showing symptoms.

This raises the possibility that such sub-clinical forms of BSE may be found in other species, such as pigs and poultry, and pose a risk to humans through the food chain.

But Robert Forster, chairman of the National Beef Association, (NBA) was sceptical about the relevance of the research.

In the laboratory you can make anything happen, he told the BBC Radio 4 Farming Today programme.

Mr Forster suggested the researchers had made their dramatic claims, which made the front pages of many newspapers, in a bid to secure future funding.

Ive no doubt BSE is fascinating to scientists, and its intricate theorising on prion proteins is very interesting to them.

But I cant help thinking this is yet another example of a case for further research funding being made in public at the expense of the livestock industry.

He believed BSE in cattle was rapidly disappearing and said the industry may be able to look forward to the extinction of the disease.

Mr Forster said since the all-UK ban on meat and bonemeal there was no possible means to recycle BSE material to cattle or any other animals.

Prof Collinge agreed that controls to prevent the spread of BSE in cattle were effective.

There are excellent measures in place to prevent spread any further exposure to BSE, he told Farming Today.

The thirty-month rule and the offal ban should prevent any further significant exposure of the population to BSE in cattle.

But he warned that the danger could come from other species.

It is important to make sure that there are no other species that were exposed to BSE that were eating that may harbour sub-clinical form of the disease.

The ministry of agriculture said safety regulation s also took into account the possibility that BSE could be found in other species.

SEAC, the governments advisory ommittee on BSE will consider the finding at its next meeting at the end of September.

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