- A prominent government adviser gave warning yesterday
that "mad cow" disease could be far more widespread throughout
Europe than official statistics suggest.
- Roy Anderson, of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory
Committee (SEAC), is concerned that tests on cattle to detect BSE are missing
the disease. He told MPs yesterday that urgent action was needed to verify
- Random testing of cattle in EU abattoirs started in January,
but Professor Anderson fears that the tests show BSE only in its later
stages and not when animals may be incubating the disease.
- He said that Germany had tested 900,000 cattle and found
the disease in less than 10 per cent of the animals. He said: "I have
a horrible feeling that there is an underestimation of the figures in Europe."
- Professor Anderson, the head of infectious disease epidemiology
at Imperial College, London, raised the issues with MPs on the Select Committee
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs after failing to spur the Government
into action. He was trying to enlist their help in putting pressure on
Margaret Beckett, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, to
address the issue. She is to be questioned by the committee next Wednesday.
- He said after the hearing that SEAC had raised the problem
months ago, but nothing had been done. "I want to know what the sensitivity
of this test is by the stage of incubation of the animal."
- Results to August this year show that of 4,154,659 tests
on cattle entering the food chain in the European Union, 145 tested positive
for BSE, and no cattle in the UK tested positive.
- An official of the Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs said last night that the Government was working with other
EU states to develop a more sensitive test "as soon as possible."