Swiss BSE controls rewarded with lower risk status

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

The Swiss beef industry was yesterday rewarded for its efforts in
controlling bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), when the World
Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) reduced its status to
"controlled risk" for the disease.

This status is considered favourable within the international community, and could provide leverage to ease restrictions imposed on beef products and improve exports sales. The controlled risk classification recognizes that OIE-recommended science-based safety measures are in place to manage the risk of BSE infection in cattle. The first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, was reported in Britain in 1986. In 1990 Switzerland became the third European country after the UK and Ireland to register cases of BSE, instances of which peaked to 68 during 1995. Around that period, meat sales fell by about ten per cent, according to statistics reported in Swiss media. On discovery of the disease, Switzerland adopted measures to limit its spread, including a complete ban on animal products in feed for livestock in 2001. Herds in which BSE cases were confirmed were destroyed and the carcasses of affected animals were incinerated. The results of the measures have taken time to become fully effective because the disease has an incubation period of about five years. No cow born after 2001 is known to have developed BSE in Switzerland, according to its Federal Veterinary Office (FVO). Switzerland has pioneered a system of cattle identification and registration, a scientific testing programme and preventative measures that have dramatically decreased the number of cases in recent years. Indeed, the Swiss approach to controlling BSE, prompted United Nations praise in 2004, calling it a model for other nations. Swiss experts are now subject to international demand by countries attempting to follow suit. Since the first discovery of the disease in the UK in 1986, some 190,000 cases have been reported worldwide, according to OIE statistics. To date, no new cases have been discovered in Switzerland during 2007. Scientists believe that the human illness, Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD) - recognised in 1996 - is caused by the consumption of BSE-infected meat. There have been no cases of vCJD reported in Switzerland. The other countries to have their status reduced to controlled risk by the OIE in this round of assessments are the US, Canada, Brazil, Taipei-China and Chile.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

Related news

Follow us


View more