Is Mad Cow/BSE In Milk
And Milk Products?
- Study Ordered
By Keith Perry,3604,351415,00.html
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 milk.
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 still alive.
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 it.
"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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