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The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Ministers insist there is no danger to people"
 real 28k

Nick Brown, UK Agriculture Minister
"The cow involved could not have entered the food chain"
 real 28k

Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
BSE fears after cow infected
Cow being burned
More than a million cattle were slaughtered due to BSE
Fresh fears over the spread of BSE in cattle have been sparked by the revelation that a cow developed the disease even though it was born after strict controls were introduced.

An investigation will be launched into the case, focussing on the source of infection.


Experts have always foreseen a few cases of BSE could be confirmed in animals born after 1 August 1996

Nick Brown
Food safety experts fear the disease could have had been passed on by the animal's mother - a method of transmission not previously proven.

An EU-wide export ban on British beef was imposed in 1996, at the height of the crisis over "mad cow disease", or BSE, after Britain admitted there was a link with a form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease that has killed dozens of people.

Dr Tim Lobstein, co-director of the Food Commission said: "Either food controls for cattle have not been adequate or there is maternal transmission, a new form of transmission that has not been detected previously.

"Until more is known, we do not know how this cow got the disease, but it raises alarming possibilities that new methods or forms of transmission have yet to be fully appreciated by government scientists."

'Uncertainties remain'

The calf was born on 25 August 1996, Mr Brown told the Commons.

He said the date was significant because it was after the first of that month, when extra controls on animal feeds had been implemented.

mad cow
A link was made between "mad cow" disease and CJD in humans
The new rules banned the inclusion of any animal remains into animal feed. But this calf was born three weeks after that date.

The Consumers' Association called for a thorough and transparent investigation on how the cow became infected and any implications for public health.

A spokesman said: "This again reinforces the fact that many uncertainties still remain regarding BSE.

"We need to ensure that vigorous and effective controls are in place."

Experts predict 19 cases

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said there was "no risk to food safety".

But he said: "Experts have always foreseen a few cases of BSE could be confirmed in animals born after 1 August 1996."

He said: "An assessment last year ... assumed that by the end of the year 2000, up to 19 cases born after August 1996 might be identified."


It raises alarming possibilities that new methods or forms of transmission have yet to be fully appreciated by government scientists

Dr Tim Lobstein of the Food Commission
He went on: "The cow involved - 44 months of age at the time of slaughter - would not have entered the food chain because of the rules which prevent animals aged over 30 months from getting into the food chain.

"The animal has one offspring, which has been traced, and that is not going to enter the food chain either."

The Food Standards Agency said the cow had been slaughtered and incinerated and its calf would also be destroyed.

UK rules 'toughest'

Mr Brown insisted the UK had the strictest measures in place to protect human health from the risk of BSE.

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

Last August, the European Commission agreed to allow beef exports from Britain to resume, subject to strict controls, accepting that the new measures meant British beef was now safe.

But France has maintained its ban despite protracted negotiations and the threat of action against it.

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See also:

20 Jun 99 | BSE Inquiry
BSE: The long search for the facts
17 Dec 99 | BSE Inquiry
More questions than answers
18 Aug 99 | BSE Inquiry
CJD: The threat to human health
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