The Food Standards Agency has taken precautionary measures to prevent carcass meat from an animal whose mother was found to have BSE from reaching the human food chain.

The 25 month old animal from England was slaughtered at an abattoir in Scotland last Monday (8 January). Due to the co-operation of the company and the traceability arrangements in place within the industry, almost all of the meat was detained and will be destroyed by the Agency. However, the animal's kidneys may have already passed into the human food chain.

The Agency's advice to consumers is that the risk from anything that may have passed into the human food chain from the offspring of a BSE cow is extremely low. Very stringent measures are taken to ensure that only animals under 30 months old are consumed in the UK and that the Specified Risk Material is removed at the abattoir. In this case, the animal was slaughtered in line with these rules.

As an additional precaution, meat which can be readily identified as being from an animal born to a BSE-affected cow is removed from the food chain.

Dr George Paterson, Director of the Food Standards Agency in Scotland, said today:

"The actions we have taken with the full co-operation with the abattoir owners are purely precautionary. The carcass was processed according to the BSE controls which involve the removal of Specified Risk Material - those parts most likely to contain BSE infectivity. We know from its certificated date of birth that the animal was under 30 months of age and therefore conformed to the Over Thirty Month Rule which prohibits the passage into the human food chain of meat from animals over that age. For these reasons the increase in risk to human health is minimal.

"We are investigating with the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food the delay in diagnosing the animal's mother as BSE-affected and tracing the offspring".

NOTES FOR NEWS EDITORS

  1. The 25 month old animal was slaughtered on Monday 8 January. When notified that the animal's mother had been infected by BSE, action was taken to detain or recover any parts of the animal which would normally pass into the human food chain.

  2. Apart from the animal's kidneys, the Agency has been able to detain or recover all of the meat intended for the human food chain.

  3. The kidneys were cut up and became mixed with a larger batch of meat. Although it has been possible to recover part of this batch, it is impossible to know whether this includes the kidneys from the animal in question.

  4. BSE infectivity has never been found in bovine kidneys.

  5. The Over Thirty Month Rule keeps meat from cattle aged over 30 months at slaughter out of the food chain. The mean age when BSE signs appear in cattle is approximately 60 months.

  6. Specified Risk Material are the main parts of cattle which have been found to contain the BSE agent. By removing these parts of the animal 95% of the infectivity is removed.

  7. The cull of offspring born to animals with BSE is operated by vets from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Once an animal is confirmed with BSE, any offspring are removed from the herd. This is largely a measure to reduce BSE transmission among cattle rather than a food safety measure.

  8. Maternal transmission of BSE - from cow to calf - is currently believed to occur in less than 10 per cent of cases.

For further information, media should contact John Booth on 01224 285120.