Irish Firm Announces Mad
Cow Test Breakthrough
Copyright © 1997
Copyright © 1997 Agence France-Presse
From Ted Oliphant
DUBLIN - An Irish firm has developed a new testing method which could reduce from two weeks to two hours the time it takes to determine if cattle carcasses are contaminated with BSE, the firm announced Saturday.
Michael O'Connor, a vet and technical director of Enfer Scientific, said field trials of the new testing procedures were complete and they were now in a position to test 14,000 cattle a day for BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), otherwise known as "mad cow disease."
He said the test, which would cost about $33 per carcass, takes two hours instead of the normal two weeks. It would add about 10 cents to the retail price of meat.
Samples from the slaughtered animals in all 29 meat factories in Ireland could be delivered to Enfer and tested within a maximum of 6 to 7 hours. The results would be faxed back, allowing infected animals to be removed before they went through the 15 hour chilling cycle in the plants and entered the food chain.
The new test would mean meat could be sold as guaranteed BSE-free, for the first time.
O'Connor told Irish RTE TV that the development could mean the end of the BSE problem. He said he had not announced the completion of the company's trials until now as he wanted to be sure they were completely successful.
"I didn't want any false promises. If the Agriculture Minister drops the flag on Monday morning, we could start by Thursday," he said.
He said that if the testing system was implemented, Irish cattle would have "the highest status in the EU. They would be prime stock."
He said they tested for the prion infective agent and a 10 digit bar code system had been developed to keep check on each carcass tested. "We will know what day it was killed, what factory is was in and what carcass number it was. End of story."
Special safety procedures have been developed and instruments designed to extract samples from the animals central nervous tissue and the brain.
Enfer is a seven year old high-tech company which specialises in a variety of animal testing.
It employs over 30 and has laboratories in Dublin and Cashel. A third laboratory was set up for the BSE test field trials.
It is a private company set up by O'Connor, a vet, and Louis Ronan, a meat factory owner.
Enfer has tested over 300,000 cattle carcasses for the presence of "Angel Dust" - the illegal growth promoter Clembuterol - over the past three years and the new BSE test was an adaptation of the technology they had been using.
When the test was first developed earlier this year, the Irish agriculture minister welcomed it as a "significant breakthrough."

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