Three imported cows aged over 30 months enter food supply without being tested for BSE
Wednesday 30 September 2009
The Agency has been notified that meat from three cows aged over 30 months, which were not tested for BSE, has entered the food supply.
As specified risk material (SRM) was removed and it is unlikely that the cows were infected with BSE, any risk to human health is extremely low.
The three cows were aged between 31 and 34 months when slaughtered on 1 July 2009 at RWM Food Group’s abattoir in Langport, Somerset. They had been imported from Estonia in December 2007. BSE testing is mandatory for cattle born there if slaughtered for human consumption at over 30 months of age.
The error was discovered on 7 September 2009 during routine cross checks of slaughter and BSE test data. By the time the failure was discovered, all of the carcasses had left the premises and subsequent enquiries indicate that the affected meat is no longer in the food supply chain. Background to BSE testingSince the beginning of this year, the BSE testing age increased to over 48 months for cattle born in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Cattle aged over 30 months and born in any other country, including Estonia, are only allowed to enter the food supply if they have first tested negative for BSE. If there is no BSE test, all parts of the carcass must be condemned.
SRM is those parts of the animal that contain almost all BSE infectivity, if the animal is infected with BSE. SRM includes the vertebral column of cattle aged over 30 months.
Opinion of the Scientific Steering Committee on the GEOGRAPHICAL RISK OF BOVINE SPONGIFORM ENCEPHALOPATHY (GBR) in Estonia adopted by the SSC on 10 April 2003
CONCLUSION ON THE CURRENT GBR The BSE-agent may have reached the territory of Estonia before its independence in 1991. After 1995 significant amounts of MBM were imported from BSE risk countries. A significant risk that BSE infectivity entered processing therefore exists since some years, at the latest since 2000, when domestic cattle potentially exposed to contaminated imported MBM around 1995, could have entered processing while approaching the end of the incubation period. Given the instability of the system, this could have lead to BSE cases. It is concluded that it is likely but not confirmed that domestic cattle are (clinically or pre-clinically) infected with the BSE-agent (GBR III). EXPECTED DEVELOPMENT OF THE GBR As long as the system remains unstable, the probability of cattle to be (pre-clinically or clinically) infected with the BSE-agent will further increase, even if no additional external challenges occur.
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