The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) of the European Commission has released two opinions on the issue of BSE in small ruminants, i.e. sheep and goats.

A first opinion suggests a strategy to investigate the possible presence of BSE in small ruminants in sheep and goats that tested positive for scrapie under the improved TSE surveillance programme that started on 1 April 2002 in the European Union.

A second opinion states that, should BSE in small ruminants become probable, a risk management strategy based solely on the exclusion of certain Specified Risk Materials would no longer be justified. Appropriate product safety should be achieved by combining different approaches.

Under the current situation of no evidence of BSE being present in small ruminants, the SSC sees no reasons to amend the list of Specified Risk Materials to be removed from the food chain.

The SSC also discussed the recent paper from the Stanley Prusiner team indicating that certain skeletal muscles of scrapie-infected mice contain infectivity and may reproduce prions. The Committee concludes that the boundary conditions of the research do not justify its straight extrapolation to BSE-in-cattle conditions. The results of infectivity experiments with regard to the presence of TSE infectivity in muscles of cattle and sheep, including the recent AFSSA work reported on 27 March 2002, were all consistently negative so far and there is currently no reason to revise the SSC opinions with regard to the safety of bovine and sheep muscles.

The opinions can be viewed here.