This year is worst on record so far for BSE cases

October 12, 2002 The Irish Times by Sean MacConnell
Eight new cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy were found in the national herd this week, according to the Department of Agriculture and Food.

This week's disclosure brings to 268 the number of cases of the disease found so far this year, making it the worst on record since the disease was first identified here in 1989.

This is because increased testing at knackeries for BSE in animals not destined for the food chain and the routine testing of all animals over 30 months being slaughtered at meat plants has been bringing forward most of the new cases. Only three of this week's cases were found in the traditional way, by passive surveillance on farms. The remaining five were found in the active surveillance programme initiated in July 2000.

Over one million animals have been tested for the disease in the past two years, and the Department has claimed that the underlying trend remains positive.

This is because of the increasing age profile of the animals being diagnosed, with virtually all the cases, except for two in the last year, being born before 1997 when the final controls to ensure no infected meat and bonemeal could get into cattle feed became fully effective.

The youngest three animals detected this week were six-year-olds from herds in Wicklow, Kerry and Monaghan. Three seven-year-olds came from herds in Offaly, Laois and Cork, and two nine-year-olds came from Limerick and Monaghan dairy herds.

Meanwhile, a major row has broken out in Britain where the Food Standards Agency has reported that 5,000 tonnes of mechanically recovered meat per year was allowed into the food chain there in the years 1980 to 1996,

This material was power-hosed from the skeletal remains of cattle and included specified risk material, such as brains, lips, cheeks and portions of the spinal cord which are now banned from the food chain because they can carry BSE infection.

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