- The risk of contracting the human form of mad cow disease
may be greater from eating sheepmeat than beef if the British sheep flock
has been infected with BSE.
- The first study of the likely health implications of
BSE in sheep has revealed that meat from infected animals, if it passes
into the food chain, could cause thousands of deaths from variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob
disease. Under this scenario, deaths from the brain condition could reach
150,000, compared with a maximum of 50,000 should beef be the only cause.
- The findings by scientists at Imperial College, London,
underline the need for immediate screening of Britain's 40 million sheep
for BSE, they said yesterday. Controls on which sheep and parts of sheep
can be eaten, similar to those in place for cattle, would also reduce the
risk to health by up to 90 per cent.
- In practice, such restrictions would have little impact
on the sort of sheepmeat that is commonly eaten because the disease,s lengthy
incubation period means that lamb does not carry a risk of passing on the
prion proteins that cause it. It would affect mutton sold mainly by halal
butchers, and sheep offal used in sausages, pies and other meat products.
- Neil Ferguson, Professor of Mathematical Biology at Imperial
College, who led the research, which has been published in Nature, said
that although the risk from sheep was small, it was significant and could
- There is no firm evidence that BSE is present in sheep,
but animals were exposed to the same meat-and-bone meal that caused it