The possibility that BSE exists in sheep and goats cannot be dismissed, according to a report published this week by scientists from the European Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), although they stressed that to date no evidence exists.

As an advisory group to the European Commission on BSE and other multi-disciplinary consumer health issues, the SSC had been asked to formulate an opinion on the safety of sheep and goat meat products should the presence of BSE be confirmed or become probable in these species.

The question is timely in view of the ongoing investigation by UK scientists on the presence of BSE in sheep brains.

The SSC stressed that if the tests conclude that BSE is probable in sheep and goats, its previous opinions on specified risk materials that need to be removed from the food chain would require updating.

The body called for more scientific research to fill in the current gaps of knowledge, in a number of specific fields.

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