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Professor Hugh Pennington
"It is a shame Germany did not learn from the UK's experience on BSE"
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Saturday, 25 November, 2000, 14:08 GMT
Britain's BSE lessons 'ignored'
Beef carcass inspection
New BSE cases have been found in Europe
A leading British expert on BSE has told the BBC that Germany should have taken action sooner to prevent the outbreak of "mad cow" disease.

The UK's top food safety expert Hugh Pennington - a member of the Scottish Food Advisory Committee - said it was a "great shame" that Germany had not learned from Britain's experiences of BSE.

The Aberdeen University professor's comments, made to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, follow the discovery of the first cases of mad cow disease in German-born cattle.

Prof Hugh Pennington
Professor Hugh Pennington: Lessons not learned
Germany has followed France in calling for new Europe-wide measures to control the spread of mad cow disease, as alarm mounts across Europe.

Berlin's abrupt change of approach reflects a national sense of shock as Germany became the latest of a growing number of European countries affected.

Prof Pennington said: "It is a great pity the Germans weren't watching what was happening, all the torment we were going through trying to get a grip on BSE.

"Basically it is all there: what you have to do to get a grip on BSE, how you stop it getting into the cattle. We have done it."

Germany had previously said its own cattle were free of the disease, with the only other six cases of BSE in the country involving cattle of British and Swiss origin.

Pressure is now growing across the European Union for stricter measures to stop the spread of BSE, with Spain also reporting its first cases of the disease.

Pressure for ban

The EU commissioner, David Byrne, said steps must be taken to stop risk material, such as bone meal, getting into the food chain. But he said that, in the past, Germany and Spain had opposed such moves:

Prof Pennington urged EU countries to introduce an across-the-board ban on the use of animal products in cattle feed.

But he said that even if action were to be taken today there would be problems for years to come.

He added: "An animal only needs to eat this bonemeal material the size of a nut to be infected.

"What we should be exporting to Germany is our experience of BSE - we went through this years go and we are still having problems."

Tighter checks on beef imports had already been ordered in the UK as a result of concern over BSE in French herds.

So far the UK has not taken steps to ban French beef, despite fears infected beef may have been imported to Britain from France.

The Food Standards Agency has ordered local authorities to increase checks on documentation for beef imports in an attempt to increase consumer confidence.

But food inspectors are saying it is practically impossible to identify which beef could be contaminated.

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See also:

25 Nov 00 | Europe
Tough action demanded on BSE
24 Nov 00 | Europe
BSE alert in Germany
19 Nov 00 | Scotland
Scots call for French beef ban
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