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Press Release 01/03

FAO: COUNTRIES AROUND THE WORLD SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT 'MAD COW DISEASE' AND SHOULD TAKE ACTION TO REDUCE AND PREVENT RISKS


Rome, 26 January - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today has urged countries around the world, not just those in Western Europe, to be concerned about the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and its human form, the new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD). In a statement issued in Rome, FAO called for action to protect the human population, as well as the livestock, feed and meat industries.

"There is an increasingly grave situation developing in the European Union, with BSE being identified in cattle in several member states of the EU which have, until recently, been regarded as free from the disease", FAO said. "Confirmed and suspected cases of nvCJD are occurring in people outside the UK, in various member states. More research needs to be conducted into the nature of the agent and its modes of transmission. Much remains unknown about the disease and the infective agent. There is currently no method of diagnosis at early stages of infection and no cure for the disease, neither in animals nor in humans."

All countries which have imported cattle or meat and bone meal (MBM) from Western Europe, especially the UK, during and since the 1980s, can be considered at risk from the disease, according to the UN agency. Several countries have imported large quantities of MBM in the recent past.

FAO said it supports the EU's action and considers "that there is an urgent need to refine the risk assessment and to extend it to other countries and regions. Countries at risk should implement effective surveillance for BSE in cattle and controls on the animal feed and meat industries. At present, this means: laboratory testing of samples from slaughtered cattle, and correct disposal of fallen stock and improved processing of offals and by-products".

Within countries, FAO recommended applying the so-called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point system (HACCP) which aims at identifying potential problems and taking corrective measures throughout the food chain. Some of the issues include the production of animal feed, the raw materials used, cross-contamination in the feed mill, labelling of manufactured feeds, the feed transport system, as well as monitoring imported live animals, slaughtering methods, the rendering industry and the disposal of waste materials.

"Strict controls have been implemented in the United Kingdom and are now being implemented in the rest of the EU," FAO said. "Countries outside the EU should adopt appropriate measures to protect their herds and to ensure the safety of meat and meat products. Legislation to control the industry and its effective implementation is required, including capacity building and the training of operatives and government officials."

FAO advised countries to adopt a precautionary approach. As an immediate measure, countries which have imported animals and MBM from BSE-infected trading partners should consider a precautionary ban on the feeding of MBM to ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats) or, to reduce the risk of infection even further, to all animals.

Attention should be paid to slaughtering procedures and to the processing and use of offal and by-product parts, FAO said. The rendering industry should be scrutinised and appropriate procedures adopted everywhere.

FAO, together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation Internationale des Epizooties (OIE), will hold an expert consultation in the near future to draw up advice for countries, particularly developing countries, to protect their people from nvCJD, their livestock from BSE, and their industries from trade restrictions and their repercussions.

The FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius is currently finalizing work on a 'Code of Practice for Good Animal Feeding' to ensure that animal products do not create risks to consumers.

FAO, together with WHO and OIE, will continue to inform countries of developments and of scientific and technical advances relating to this problem.

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The latest information can be obtained from the website:

http://www.fao.org/livestock/AGAP/FRG/Feedsafety/fs2.htm

For more information please contact: Erwin Northoff, Media Officer, tel: 0039-06-5705 3105/2232, e-mail: erwin.northoff@fao.org


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