Food Law News - UK - 2005

FSA News Item, 13 July 2005

BSE - Scientists say risk from BSE in goat is very low

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has announced the findings of scientific advisors who were asked to assess the risks posed to humans from goat meat, following the confirmation of a case of BSE in a French goat in January 2005.

The panel of scientific advisors concluded that the likely prevalence of BSE in the European Union goat population is very low and that the current risk is considered to be small for goats born after a European wide ban on feed containing meat and bone meal (MBM) was introduced in 2001. MBM is thought to have been the most likely route of BSE infection to cattle.

Earlier this year the panel also advised on the safety of milk and milk products and concluded that, based on current scientific knowledge, milk and milk products from goats are unlikely to present any risk of TSE (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy) contamination provided the milk is sourced from healthy animals, irrespective of their county of origin. (BSE is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.) That advice still stands.

The Biological Hazard (Biohaz) scientific panel based its most recent assessment on the following points:

Some UK goats will have been fed MBM before it was banned in 1988. This ban was considered to become fully effective in 1996 and was extended across Europe in 2001. There is uncertainty about the risk to goats before that date. A suspected case in a UK goat born before the 1988 feed ban and slaughtered in 1990 is undergoing additional laboratory tests for BSE and results will be completed in two years' time.

Should another case or cases of BSE in goat be confirmed, EFSA might have to reassess its risk assessment for BSE in goats.

Risk management measures

Specified risk materials, for example brain and spinal cord, have been and continue to be removed from all goats over the age of 12 months. Harmonised SRM rules have been in place since 2000 and UK controls on goats have existed since 1997. This risk management measure eliminates those parts of the animal that would be the most highly infectious if an animal were to have BSE. Current SRM measures for goats do not, however, reduce the risk to the same extent as for cattle in the case of an infected animal.

The UK Governments expert advisory committee, the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) concluded recently that there is no evidence of BSE in the current UK goat herd, and as goats are no longer exposed to contaminated feed the likelihood of goats being infected with BSE was low.

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