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France to Boost Tests for Mad Cow Disease in Goats

Date: 20-Apr-05
Country: FRANCE

The first case of a disease close to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), that ravaged European cattle herds and killed at least 100 people, was found in a French goat in January, prompting fears of a new crisis in the meat sector.

After being asked to evaluate the risks of the disease spreading, the animal health agency AFSSA said only a limited number of cases was likely to be uncovered.

However, it said non-systematic testing and the removal at slaughterhouses of materials at risk of being contaminated were insufficient to fully protect consumers.

AFSSA also noted there was more risk for consumers to eat infected milk or dairy products from a infected goat than from an infected bovine. Under EU rules milk and meat from a goat infected with BSE may not be used in food.

"In light of this opinion, the government has decided to reinforce measures already in place concerning goat livestock," the ministry said in a statement. "This plan (...) will focus on a rise in TSE tests at slaughterhouses and during cutting."

TSE stands for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, a family of diseases that includes BSE and scrapie.

NO TIMING

The ministry said there was no date set for a rise in TSE tests and how it would be applied was still to be determined.

"At this stage all that we've decided is to raise the number of tests on goats," a ministry spokesman said.

"But on the way it will be done -- will it be systematic, will the tests be done in slaughterhouses or in the cutting plant, will they be limited geographically or by age -- absolutely nothing has been decided," he added.

Ministry officials were due to meet with AFSSA this week.

France launched tests after the discovery of the suspected case. The ministry said none of the 40,000 tests carried out on goats since January had proven positive.

It also stressed that for several years it had imposed strict sanitary rules against TSE, including a ban on the use of animal parts in feed as well as the removal of risk material such as spinal chord, intestines and brain from the food chain.

The EU is home to some 11.6 million goats with the largest herds in France, Greece and Spain, primarily reared for dairy such as milk, yogurt and cheese with little meat consumed.

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Reuters
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