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Saturday, 16 June, 2001, 08:40 GMT 09:40 UK
New BSE case rings alarm bells
A cow with BSE
It is the second case of BSE in a cow born after 1 August 1996
A case of BSE has been discovered in a cow born after the introduction of tight control measures aimed at stamping out the disease.

The infected animal, understood to be a Friesian dairy cow from Somerset, was born on 27 May 1997 - nearly 10 months after controls on animal feed containing mammalian meat and bone meal were implemented.

Concerns have also been raised because the calf's mother is not infected with the disease, suggesting there might be a previously unknown route of transmission.


It does not change in any way our view that we have the toughest rules in place to protect public health and to eradicate the disease

Elliot Morley
The government has been quick to deny the development increases fears of a spread of BSE.

Animal health minister, Elliot Morley, said: "We do not yet know the epidemiological significance of this case but the independent Food Standards Agency advises there are no implications for food safety.

"It does not change in any way our view that we have the toughest rules in place to protect public health and to eradicate the disease."

But the acting chairman of the government's BSE advisory committee, Professor Peter Smith, said the case was a matter of concern.

The committee had expected some BSE cases to arise following the ban on suspect feed, because the disease is also thought to be transmissible from mother to calf.

But because the mother - or dam - in this case is not infected with the disease scientists cannot rule out the possibility of a new route of transmission.

'not expected'

Professor Smith told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "This is a case we didn't expect to see.

"There are two things that have to be considered. One is whether there is some failing in the feed ban. That would be of some concern, because this is 10 months after we think the feed ban should have been watertight.

"The other possibility is that there is a third way of transmission. We know about feed transmission and we know about transmission from dam to calf.

"It is possible, and we can't exclude it completely, that there is some other low-level form of transmission through which a case like this might arise.

"Cases like this are obviously going to become more evident as other sources of transmission are removed."

Investigation

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it was only the second time BSE had been confirmed in a cow born after 1 August, 1996. Experts had predicted there would be a total of 17 cases by the end of this year.

The first case was confirmed last year in a Holstein cow from Dorset.

An investigation has now been launched to try and establish how the disease was transmitted to the cow.

The infected cow, which was 48 months old when it was slaughtered, would not have entered the human food chain because of regulations preventing the sale of meat for human consumption from animals aged more than 30 months.


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15 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Pledge to avoid repeat of BSE scandal
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