- An expert has told the BBC there is a
serious danger that sheep have been infected with BSE, putting the entire
national flock at risk.
- Further research is a "matter of
urgency" according to Professor Jeff Almond, chairman of the sheep
sub-committee of SEAC, which advises the government on BSE.
- But the President of the National Farmers'
Union, Ben Gill, has hit back at what he described as "the spreading
of scare stories".
- At the most extreme, the UK flock of
42 million could be slaughtered if traces are found. Only nine sheep have
been tested for the disease since 1996, when it was established that BSE
may be in sheep.
- Professor Almond said: "If we found
BSE in sheep it would be a national emergency and I think politicians would
have to think very hard about what the appropriate response should be."
- He said that sheep had been the committee's
main area of concern since 1996, when BSE was established as a danger in
cattle and the beef ban began.
- The Consumers Association is seeking
advice on whether young children, who may yet not have been exposed to
infected meat, should avoid lamb.
- The Ministry for Agriculture has said
that children are no more at risk than anyone else.
- Firm evidence of BSE infection in sheep
is still believed to be several years away as research is only now being
- Mr Gill disputed the need for media attention
to the issue. He said there was "no news here" and attributed
the renewed questioning about BSE in sheep to "an old story resurrected
by an article in Nature magazine".
- "I don't believe spreading scare
stories is the best way to support consumers," he added.
- One expert said that steps are being
taken to reduce the risk of BSE to humans by restricting the use of meat
and bonemeal in animal feed and removing risk materials at the abbatoir.
- Former Senior Lecturer at the Royal Veterinary
College, Dr Tony Andrews, said: "We can't deny that some people could
possibly be incubating the disease."
- But he added: "The risk now is absolutely