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Monday, 29 January, 2001, 13:51 GMT
Expert dismisses tougher BSE testing
Packs of beef
Concerns about BSE infection are spreading
One of the UK's leading experts on food safety has warned that German plans to test cattle aged 24 months for BSE would not be effective in Britain.

A Europe-wide testing programme was introduced at the beginning of the year for cattle over 30 months.

But now there are fears younger cattle may not be as safe as was previously assumed.

The German Government has moved to reduce its testing age to 24 months, following the discovery of a case of BSE in a cow just 28 months old.

Professor Hugh Pennington
Prof Pennington values the UK test system
But Professor Hugh Pennington, from the Scottish Food Advisory Committee, said he is satisfied with the current system.

"The testing of animals in the over 30 months scheme is just one of a package of measures we have," said Professor Pennington.

"I think as far as we are concerned we know from the data we have, and it is very good data, that testing these younger animals would not be of any benefit at all.

"We would not pick up any extra animals that we are not already stopping getting into the food chain."

Feed controls

EU agriculture ministers were meeting in Brussels on Monday to consider further measures to deal with the spread of BSE, or mad cow disease.

The average incubation period for BSE is four to six years and it had been assumed beef from animals as young as 30 months could be safely eaten without being tested first.

Agriculture ministers were likely to be reluctant to adopt the German model, because of the additional expense and concern that it could cause alarm.

In Britain, consumers have been advised for the last five years that beef from animals under 30 months is entirely safe.

The government points out that there have been no cases of BSE in younger cattle since strict feed controls were introduced in 1996.

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21 Dec 00 | Europe
Austria bans German beef
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