Euro Experts Slam Slovenia's
Mad Cow Explanation
As 'Pure Garbage'

LONDON (Reuters) - European mad cow disease experts have criticised Slovenia for labelling a case of the brain-wasting illness as a rare spontaneous type, with one scientist saying the explanation was "complete garbage".

They dismissed Slovenia's statement that its first reported case of mad cow disease, in a five-year-old cow, was a type that occurred spontaneously in nature, saying the cow most likely ate contaminated animal feed imported from Britain.

"It's complete garbage. They will have caught it from Britain," Dr Stephen Dealler, a microbiologist who has worked on mad cow disease since 1988, told Reuters on Thursday.

"It will have come from exports from the UK either of the material which is used to feed the cow, or from making feed from the remnants of another cow which was slaughtered before...They shouldn't have said it."

Officials in Slovenia said the diseased cow had never been fed with meat-and-bone meal -- feed made from crushed up animal carcasses which has been blamed by scientists for spreading mad cow disease or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).

The director of Slovenia's Veterinary Office said the cow was also from a Slovenian breed and not imported from Britain, which first detected the disease in 1986 but continued to export live cattle and animal feed to Europe and other countries.

But European Union officials said it was most likely that the cow had eaten feed contaminated with the disease.

Beate Gminder, spokeswoman for EU food safety commissioner David Byrne, said there were other theories about how BSE was transmitted but most scientists believed it was carried in meat-and-bone meal and was related to an disease in sheep, called scrapie.

"There are other theories but all the scientific evidence points to contaminated meat-and-bone meal as being the likely cause of BSE," she said at a conference in Brussels called "From farm to fork".

But she said there was no risk to humans as Slovenia was adhering to European Union measures, which ensure the most risky cattle parts -- specified risk material (SRM) -- are removed from consignments destined for supermarket shelves.

"There is no problem because all the imports into the EU have to conform with our BSE legislation," she said.

"The best possible protection for the consumer is the removal of all SRMs."
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