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Food Standards Agency Chairman, Sir John Krebs
"Our prime concern is the protection of consumers"
 real 28k

National Farmers' Union spokesman, Neal Cutler
"Controls are always easier to put on than remove"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
BSE controls 'must remain'
cow at incinerator
More than 4.5 million cattle have been slaughtered since 1996
Strict controls to protect the public against infection from BSE should stay until more is known about the disease, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said.

In a draft report into BSE controls, the agency said scientists did not know enough about the disease to lift rules on the export and feeding of cattle.


The protection of the public has been the guiding principle of this review

Foods Standards Agency
More research was needed to set up tests to screen animals against the disease, it said.

The FSA also warned the European Union that it needed to make sure other European countries took similar care to protect human health.

140m in research

There have been 82 definite and probable cases of the human form of the disease, variant CJD, in the UK to date.

Scientists predict the epidemic could affect from a few hundred to 100,000 people.

More than 140m has been spent in research costs since 1986, and since 1996, 4.5 million cattle have been slaughtered, the draft review stated.

'High uncertainty'

FSA chairman Sir John Krebs said: "The protection of the public has been the guiding principle of this review.

"The evidence is that the current controls, which are based on a precautionary approach, are working out.

"But because of the high level of uncertainty, the review suggests that the current approach be retained in the immediate future, subject to emerging scientific knowledge."


There is still much scientific uncertainty surrounding BSE
But the draft report did offer hope to Britain's beleaguered beef farmers in the form of a review of the ban on cattle aged over 30 months from entering the food chain.

The review will take place in August next year, five years after the imposition of the 30-month ban.

It could see the restriction lifted by January 2002 if there is no evidence of the disease in cattle born since August 1996, when tough restrictions on feeds were established.

Eradicating scrapie

The draft report said that while there was no evidence of BSE in sheep, contingency plans were being developed should any outbreak be detected.

It also supported a MAFF breeding programme aimed at eradicating the disease scrapie from sheep.

Some scientists believe that scrapie, which is from the same family as BSE, could be masking a more serious disease in sheep.

Research to provide urgently needed diagnostic tests establishing herd and flock freedom from infection and screening for live animals before slaughter was also a priority, the agency said.

The draft report can be read in full on a new web site - www.bsereview.org.uk

It is to be put before groups of representatives from medical and scientific organisations and consumer, farming and meat industries at a public meeting in London on Thursday.

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | UK
Europe snubs British beef
17 Jul 00 | Health
Baby food firms deny mad cow risk
15 Jul 00 | Health
CJD scientists probe abattoirs
29 Jun 00 | UK Politics
BSE fears after cow infected
20 Jun 99 | BSE Inquiry
BSE: The long search for the facts
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