|October 12, 2004,
as reported by just-food.com: An investigation
of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) has been completed and
its findings published. The independent inquiry concluded
the likelihood of a BSE infected cattle entering the food
chain was very low.
The inquiry of MHS, an executive agency of the UK’s
Foods Standards Agency (FSA), was initiated by the FSA
in June, following an audit that uncovered a number
of failures to test casualty cattle aged 24-30 months.
Casualty cattle are animals subject to special emergency
slaughter, because of an accident or other serious condition,
or because they show signs of any disease, injury or
abnormality at ante mortem inspection.
The independent inquiry concluded that, on the basis
of existing advice from the government's Spongiform
Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), the risk to
human health from all casualty cattle entering the food
chain was very low. This is because there have been
no confirmed cases of BSE in cattle under 30 months
in the UK since 1996, there have been no BSE positives
detected in the more than 2,800 casualty cattle aged
24-30 months tested to date, and that Specified Risk
Material (SRM) controls (which remove more than 99%
of any infectivity that may be present) are applied.
A steering group, led by Patrick Wall, professor of
food safety at University College Dublin and former
chief executive of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland,
was set up to oversee the inquiry. Its report and recommendations
will be considered by the FSA at its open meeting this
Thursday, after which an action plan will be developed
for further consideration by the FSA's Board at its
meeting in December.
“We have concluded that there were a number of
reasons for the testing failures and that all organisations
involved – FSA, Defra, MHS and their contractors
– contributed to one degree or another. It is
our view that these failures occurred principally because
the requirements and the objectives of testing were
not clearly agreed nor communicated effectively and
not properly monitored,” said Professor Wall.
“I would also stress that during our investigations
we did not uncover any problems that cannot be remedied
without too much difficulty,” he added.