|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.