Theoretical risk of BSE in sheep explored

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: science, Uk food standards agency

The science journal Nature has published research (10 January
issue) exploring the risks to human health if BSE was present in
the national sheep flock.

The science journal Nature has published research (10 January issue) exploring the risks to human health if BSE was present in the national sheep flock. Neil Ferguson and colleagues from Imperial College, London, estimated the human health risk from possible BSE infection of the British sheep flock. The UK Food Standards Agency, which commissioned the research, issued the following statement: 'We do not know whether BSE entered the sheep flock in the past and, if it did, whether it is in sheep today. Given this uncertainty, the Agency has been proactive in examining whether further precautionary measures may be appropriate in addition to those currently in place. 'Research by Imperial College, and published in Nature today (10 January 2002), was commissioned by the FSA and contributes to current thinking about the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep. This study does not show if BSE has entered the sheep flock. It is based on limited data and uses a wide range of assumptions. Allowing for the uncertainties it indicates how the theoretical risks might be further reduced. 'This research, alongside other research, will inform a report from an FSA stakeholder group that will be issued for consultation. 'The FSA's position is that the risk of BSE in sheep remains theoretical and the Agency is not advising against the consumption of lamb. The Board of the Agency will discuss in public whether further risk reduction measures should be introduced.'​ Current risk reduction measures to remove specified risk materials (SRM) are designed to prevent those parts of the sheep that could carry the most infectivity from entering the food chain. Current SRM controls in force across the EU are the removal of spleen in sheep 6-12 month and the removal of skull, brain, eyes, tonsils, spleen, spinal cord from sheep over 12 months. The Food Standards Agency held an open stakeholder meeting on this issue in London on 18 December 2001. A report will be issued for consultation from a representative stakeholder group on BSE in sheep. SEAC will be advising the FSA on the Imperial College research.

Related topics: Policy

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