23/05/2003

Relaxing BSE regulations gives hope to UK farmers

Restrictions governing British beef exports – enforced since the BSE outbreak three years ago – could be relaxed after the world animal health body, the Office Internationale des Epizooties (OIE), agreed to increase international thresholds for BSE risk categorisation.

The government says that the move brings the closer to making an application from high risk to moderate risk status because of the continuing decline in BSE cases.

Following OIE's annual conference in Paris yesterday, the upper threshold for moderate risk status will rise from 100 cases per million adult cattle to 200 cases per million adult cattle.

In the period between April 2002 and March 2003, the UK had identified 204 BSE cases per million adult cattle from both veterinary surveillance and active monitoring programmes. The government says that numbers are continuing to decline annually.

The first case of BSE was recorded in 1988 and between 1988 and April 30 2003, there have been 180,975 clinical cases confirmed in the UK under normal veterinary surveillance. The figures peaked in 1992 when there were 36,850 confirmed clinical cases compared to just 457 last year.

There are 32 other countries that currently fall within the "moderate risk" status. And it was reported on Wednesday that Canada has recorded its first-ever case of BSE in 10 years - the US responded by issuing a temporary order banning Canadian beef imports.

From the period of the first recorded case of BSE in 1988 until the beginning of this month there has been 129 deaths thought to be linked to variant CJD - the human form of BSE.

(GMcG)

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