Australia will consider banning the importation of European dairy products in the wake of fresh fears mad cow disease could be transmitted by milk. Britain’s Food Standards Agency has launched a nationwide investigation into safety risks following warnings the original research that declared milk safe was flawed.

The Australian and New Zealand Food Authority have confirmed they are to review findings that milk products are not a risk factor in the transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, as part of the emergency review of national standards.

“Current scientific evidence is BSE is not transmitted by milk. If there is any doubt we would ban milk as a matter of public health safety,” an ANZFA spokeswoman said.

Britain will begin new tests within weeks but its Food Safety Agency said it would take three years, the incubation period for BSE, before findings were released. The Sunday Times reported that a Cambridge geneticist who sat on the two-year BSE inquiry had criticised the lack of research.
“It is astonishing this research has not been done,” Professor Malcolm Ferguson-Smith said.
The main research declaring milk safe was based on a 1995 study into the transmission of BSE from cow’s milk to mice.

Scientists have described it as flawed because the species barrier would make it unlikely BSE would be transmitted. Tests also suggested none of the processing methods used in Britain would kill prions, the proteins believed to cause BSE and the human form, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease.