Food Law News - UK - 2005


FSA Press Release, 8 February 2005

BSE - Possible finding of BSE in a 1990 UK goat : Agency not advising against eating goat meat or dairy products

The FSA has been informed by Defra that a sample, reportedly taken from a Scottish goat (1) that died in 1990, has shown that the goat may have had BSE (2). Archived tissues from this animal were recently tested by Defra's Veterinary Laboratory Agency but confirmation of BSE requires further tests and these will take up to two years.

Few if any goats from 1990 are likely to still be alive today and BSE has not been found in the current UK goat population. It may be possible for BSE in goats to pass down through the generations and the current precautionary controls would not remove all infectivity from the goat meat were the animal to enter the food chain. However, animals that show visible signs of TSEs (3), which includes BSE, are not permitted to enter the food chain.

If confirmed, this Scottish case would be the second goat to test positive for BSE, following confirmation on 28 January 2005 that a French goat that died in 2002 had BSE. Since 2002, 140,000 goats have been tested for TSEs across Europe and no cases of BSE have been identified, except for the French case. The European Commission is stepping up the goat-testing programme to determine whether this is an isolated incident.

There is scientific uncertainty in this area. However, the most recent advice (4) on dairy products from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states that milk and milk products from goats are unlikely to present any risk of TSE contamination provided the milk is sourced from healthy animals, irrespective of country of origin. EFSA is continuing to work on a risk assessment in relation to goat meat. The Agency will also be seeking scientific advice from its own independent experts SEAC (5). There have been no goat meat imports from France into the UK since 1997.

On the basis of the current evidence, the Agency is not advising people against eating goat meat or products, including dairy products.

The Scottish goat died six years before a full ban on the use of potentially BSE infected feed to farmed animals was introduced in the UK in 1996. This ban was subsequently extended across Europe in 2001. The ban prevents the spread of BSE infection to animals through feed.

The Agency is working closely with the European Commission and other member states to consider what further action may be required in the light of the results of increased testing.

The Agency will issue further information and advice as appropriate.

Footnotes

(1) VLA is looking to conduct further tests to confirm that the sample tissue is from a goat.

(2) Defra press release can be found at Defra's website

(3) TSE, Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy, is a disease of the neurological system where there is spongy degeneration of the brain and progressive neurological deterioration. Scrapie is a TSE that is known to infect sheep and goats. BSE, which affects cattle, is also a TSE. Goats showing signs of TSEs are not permitted to enter the food chain.

(4) EFSA advice can be found at the EFSA website

(5) SEAC the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee was set up in 1990 and provides independent scientific advice to the Food Standards Agency and other Government Departments on BSE and other spongiform encephalopathies.

 


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