- The government has ordered an inquiry into whether there
is a link between BSE and milk and dairy products.
- The research, announced by Nick Brown, the minister of
agriculture, follows assurances that dairy products are safe from causing
variant CJD, the human form of BSE.
- The food standards agency has asked scientists to carry
out a three-year study into possible links "as soon as possible".
They are also being told to re-examine previous studies which have given
milk and dairy products the all-clear.
- A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture said that
the inquiry would cost £800,000. It followed a recommendation by
the spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee (Seac), set up by the
government to monitor the brain-wasting disease.
- "Milk is safe but this research is to put it beyond
doubt," the spokeswoman said. "It is a precautionary measure
and previous studies have shown milk is safe."
- CJD deaths have so far been blamed on eating meat from
infected cattle. But some scientists are concerned that earlier studies
are unreliable, and that the infective agent could be passed on through
- Fourteen Britons died from CJD in the first six months
of this year - as many as in the whole of 1999. Since 1995 it has claimed
69 lives and Seac said that the incidence of the CJD was increasing by
between 20 and 30% a year.
- Last week it was reported that there have been 76 definite
and probable cases of CJD in Britain, including seven possible victims
- Last month the government launched an inquiry into a
cluster of CJD deaths around the village of Queniborough in Leicestershire.
Three of the four victims died within weeks of each other. Robert Will,
head of the government's CJD surveillance unit, said at the time that baby
food and school meals may have been a source of the village outbreak.
- Gill Turner of the CJD Support Network welcomed news
of the three-year research. "CJD is still a poorly understood disease
and we welcome any research and money that is going to be invested into
- "The concern is not knowing whether there is a risk
from cow's milk. Athough there has been no evidence up to now that you
can get CJD from milk, further study has to be a good thing."
- Milk safety has been questioned since an interim UK study
suggested that BSE could be transmitted from cow to calf. The report raised
fears about possible BSE infection through milk and led to some German
states blocking imports of British dairy products.
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