Just 10 cases of BSE were recorded in the UK last year and, of cattle slaughtered for the food chain, none were found to have BSE. The New Scientist described the result as a “triumph for science”.
The news was welcomed by the Food Standards Agency chief scientist Andrew Wadge, who, writing on his blog, praised the government and FSA role in the process: “...if our government vets hadn’t quickly identified how BSE was being spread from animal to animal, the controls to ban the use of meat and bonemeal in animal feed wouldn’t have been implemented, and this is what ultimately broke the cycle of infection. Of course, the Food Standards Agency has played an important role in ensuring these controls were being operated fully.”
He went on to question whether it was time to relax some of the strict TSE controls, and urged caution: “What is essential to remember as we have these discussions is that even as the perceived risk is reduced, both human and animal health must take priority and any changes must be backed by evidence.
“From where we started in the mid-80s with an unknown quantity, research has taught us a lot more about the science of TSEs – what they are and the potential for them to spread – and this, together with more effective on-farm surveillance, puts us in a strong position to prevent a similar situation arising in the future.”