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Wednesday, 9 October, 2002, 00:57 GMT 01:57 UK
BSE epidemic 'twice as large'
cows
Experts say some cases may have been missed
The BSE epidemic has affected nearly 180,000 cattle in Britain - at least twice the number previously thought, according to new research.

But the study published by the Royal Society says it does not change the predictions of the number of people who will go on to develop the human version of mad cow disease, variant Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (vCJD).

Testing of apparently healthy cattle has provided the new evidence of the true scale of the epidemic of the brain disease that first emerged in Britain in the mid-1980s.

Experts from Imperial College London conclude that at least half of the cases may have been missed probably because cows infected with BSE produced less milk and were slaughtered before they showed signs of illness.

Disease deaths

The findings released by the Royal Society on Wednesday suggest that the risks attached to eating beef at the height of the epidemic were lower than previously thought.

But the researchers say that countries such as Italy and Belgium which have recorded small numbers of BSE cases should consider tightening controls on beef production.

Department of Health statistics released earlier this week suggest 117 people in the UK have died from definite or probable cases of vCJD.

They show that there have been 93 deaths which were confirmed cases of vCJD and 24 deaths from probable vCJD.

It is thought that there are 11 probable vCJD cases still alive.

Chicken tests

The possibility of a BSE risk in frozen chicken breasts was also raised this week.

Food safety officials are checking whether chicken on sale in the UK could be mixed with beef protein.

The Food Standards Agency said it was carrying out "more sensitive tests" to check for beef proteins in certain brands of chicken fillets from the Netherlands and other countries, including the UK.

But it stressed no evidence of bovine material had so far been found in any chicken in the UK.


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08 Jul 02 | Health
23 May 02 | Health
23 May 02 | Europe
10 Jan 02 | UK
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