3 June 2003, Rome --
of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in a cow in Canada
proves that active surveillance and diagnosis programmes are
working, FAO said in a statement today.
"The identification of a single case of BSE
is not a cause for panic," said FAO's Andrew
Speedy, Animal Production and Health Division.
"It is good news that odd single cases of BSE
are being picked up by inspection. There has been no sign of an
escalation of numbers in any of the countries that have
identified isolated cases. Rather, it demonstrates that active
surveillance is picking up the one-in-a-million case."
"All countries should continue to
check for the disease and apply precautionary measures, even
where BSE has never been found," Speedy said.
BSE cases since 2001
A few cases of BSE have been found since
2001 in a number of new countries like the Czech Republic (4),
Greece (1), Israel (1), Japan (7), Luxemburg (2), Poland (5),
Slovakia (11) and Slovenia (3), according to official reports to
the Office International des Epizooties (OIE).
"This is the result of effective government
programmes to find and destroy the disease," Speedy
"In addition, the trend in
the European countries which were most affected is certainly
downwards. In the UK, for example, the numbers peaked in 1992
with 37 000 cases and went down to 1 144 cases in 2002. There
were less than 1 000 cases identified by the surveillance
programmes in the rest of Europe in 2002, out of a total cattle
population of over 80 million."
Meat-and-bone-meal is no longer fed to ruminants in
many countries and it has been banned altogether in the EU,
according to FAO. Programmes are in place to test large numbers
of animals by microscopic examination and modern laboratory
tests. Affected animals are destroyed. These steps are meant to
ensure that infective material will not enter the food chain.
More stringent controls
FAO urged countries to
apply its recommendations made together with the World Health
Organization (WHO) and OIE in 2001.
"Even countries which have not found any
cases of BSE should now consider adopting more stringent
measures," Speedy said.
particular, countries should apply the following measures:
- A national risk assessment should
be conducted for the presence of BSE, considering imports of
feed and cattle and the efficiency of the rendering and feed
- Specified risk
materials (brains, eyes, tonsils, spinal cord, etc.) should be
removed from all beef and sheep carcasses over 12 and 6 months
- Standards of
rendering need to be improved with the correct temperature,
pressure and time of processing (133 degrees, 3 bar, 20
- All cross-contamination
of rendered products and in animal feed manufacture must be
avoided. There are risks of cross-contamination if feed for
poultry and pigs or pet food is in contact with feed for
- Where this cannot be
achieved, the use of meat and bone meal in animal feeds should
be banned altogether.
passive surveillance and testing of all animals showing
neurological symptoms, active surveillance should be carried
out, including: all cows which are killed because of disease or
accident, all emergency slaughtered cows, and a random sample of
all cows during routine slaughter.
- Cows found with BSE must be killed; all
direct offspring of cows with BSE should be slaughtered as well
as all animals born in the same year and the same herd as the
animal with BSE; in all these cases, the carcass must be
- Effective national
identification and recording should be implemented to ensure
that animals can be traced back to
Open trade depends on assurance
that the product is safe and this can only be achieved by
undertaking the national risk assessment, active surveillance
and implementation of all recommended measures, Speedy said.
"It is not so much whether there have been isolated
cases of BSE found by animal testing, but rather whether the
exporting country can provide assurance that the system is in
place to keep infective material out of the food
help other countries implement stricter controls, FAO is
facilitating cooperation between Switzerland, which has
successfully dealt with the BSE crisis, and countries in Eastern
Europe, Africa and Latin America.
"Training the trainers in this cooperation
project will allow the spread of expertise in further countries
requiring such assistance. This will involve not only inspectors
and laboratory personnel but also those involved in the feed and
meat industries so that they are trained in 'good
practices' which minimize the risks throughout the food
Keeping the dangerous
material out of the food chain and not amplifying the risk
through feeding it back to animals are the principle factors to
ensure against the survival of BSE in a country.
"Stricter rules and attention to detail are
called for to be absolutely sure that meat is safe,"
Information Officer, FAO
(+39) 06 5705