While the number of new cases of mad cow disease is slowly dropping in the UK, it is rising sharply across Europe, prompting Britain’s leading expert on BSE to urge the government to close the loopholes that could see infected meat imported from Europe.
In particular, Professor Roy Anderson, chief epidemiologist at Imperial College London, warned that pâté, sausages, and other processed meat produced in Europe posed a risk.
Prof Anderson is quoted as saying: “I’ve been on and on at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for some time. All I can do is keep plugging away at the areas in which I think that there are scientific frailties.”
There is currently no requirement in European law to remove animals aged over 30 months from the food chain, as there is in Britain, instead they are routinely tested for BSE when slaughtered over the age of 30 months. Just last week, a review of the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS) in Britain was announced by the FSA.
“Having the testing [in Europe] is a good thing,” he said, but added: “My major concern is…about the sensitivity of the tests because the public can be given a false sense of security about testing.”
He added that the OTMS would be better than a test programme.
Prof Anderson admitted that the risk was probably “low to negligible”, but insisted that “as the epidemic continues in Europe it is something you have to keep an eye on.”