EU food agency to explore 'mad goat' risk

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety authority, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, Disease

Current science finds no link between goat meat and meat product
consumption and variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (vCJD). But a
group of experts calls for new research, to fully understand the
risk this meat may pose to the food chain, and the consumer.

The move follows confirmation earlier this week that mad cow disease had been identified in a goat, in France.

This is the first case of the disease identified in an animal other than cattle.

Following the discovery, a group of scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are now recommending that 'more information is needed to assess the significance of the single French case'.

The EFSA panel on biological hazards (BIOHAZ) this week underlined the need to carry out a quantitative risk assessment concerning BSE-related risks associated with the consumption of goat meat and goat meat products.

They expect to complete the assessment by July 2005, 'if pertinent data will become available.'

Assessing the health risk of goats milk and milk derivatives - for example, lactoferrin and lactose, in November the panel such products are "unlikely to present any risk of TSE contamination provided that milk is sourced from clinically healthy animals."

BSE, also known as mad cow disease, belongs to the group of diseases that also include Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in man and scrapie in sheep and goats. These diseases lead to a degeneration of brain tissue which takes on a typical spongy appearance.

First identified in 1986 in the UK, 180,000 cases of BSE have since been diagnosed there alone and only four out of the 25 EU member states have not yet declared any cases. BSE has affected the entire beef food chain, from producer to consumer.

A recent report from the European Association of Animal Production estimates the cost of BSE to EU15 (prior to accession) member states at more than €90 billion. In addition, the BSE crisis has had a significant impact on public trust in government and governmental scientific advice.

Indeed, the newly created European Food Safety Authority formed the hub of Europe's white paper on food safety. Cleared in the 1990s, the legislation found its roots in the string of food safety crises, such as BSE, in Europe.

While it has been established that small ruminants can also be infected in experiments with BSE. Up to now, there are no signs of natural infection. The feeding of meat-and-bone meal - linked to BSE development in cattle - is under discussion as the possible cause of the only confirmed case of BSE infection in the goat.

The goat in question was already born before the entry into force of the ban on the feeding of meat-and-bone meal. It was slaughtered in 2002. Other animals in the herd were also examined, but they all tested negative.

Related topics: Science

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