Risk Of Human Mad Cow
May Be Greater In
Sheep Meat Than Beef

By Mark Henderson
Science Correspondent
The Times - London
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 increase.
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 in cattle.,,2-2002016080,00.html

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