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From: TSS ()
Subject: Re: New warning on mutton as brain disease hits sheep
Date: June 15, 2006 at 7:25 am PST

In Reply to: Re: New warning on mutton as brain disease hits sheep posted by TSS on June 14, 2006 at 7:30 am:

UK regulator considers action against BSE-type disease in sheep

By staff reporter

15/06/2006 - Due to scientific uncertainty over a BSE-type disease affecting sheep and goats, the UK's food regulator is expected to issue today further precautionary advice about eating mutton and to propose EU-wide labelling rules for products containing the meats.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is expected to issue a reworded advice about the issue after the meeting, based on the recommendations of its scientists. The reworded advice adds further cautionary advice to the public based on the scientific uncertainty.

The new disease is similar in effects classic scrapie, a brain-wasting disease that has been known for the past 200 years as a disease affecting sheep, but which does not affect human beings. The "atypical scrapie", as it is termed, might affect humans according to the scientists, who say more research is needed to investigate the disease before conclusions can be drawn on its effects on health.

The proposals, put forward as proposed policy by scientific experts at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to the regulator's board, could trigger a new food safety scare among consumers and a resulting drop in demand for mutton, goat and other products containing the meat, such as sausages. An outbreak of “mad cow” disease, known scientifically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), resulted in an international ban on for the past 10 years on UK cattle due to the high incident of the disease in the country.

The agency's advice to consumers is due to be reworded to take account of the scientific uncertainty, adding further precautionary advice for consumers.

"It is not possible at the present time to determine what risk, if any, atypical scrapie may present to people," the updated advisory states. "Because the possibility of a risk cannot be entirely ruled out, a number of precautionary controls are in place."

The controls, similar to those put in place for BSE in cattle, include measures relating to animal feed and the removal of certain parts of the animal before the meat goes into the food chain. Whilst the agency is not advising anyone to stop eating sheep or goat meat or products, it says any possible risk could be reduced further by not eating meat from older animals.

"This is because if there were a risk it would be greater in older animals," the advice continues. "Meat from older sheep is known as mutton. In addition, some sausages are contained in natural sheep casings made from sheep intestines which are more likely to carry the disease agent and therefore could present a greater risk.”

At a previous board meeting in March the FSA's scientists reported that it had recently been shown that atypical scrapie can be experimentally transmitted to mice and to sheep. The group agreed that, "since atypical scrapie is experimentally transmissible, the possibility that it is transmissible to humans must be considered".

At its board meeting this morning, scientists are also asking the agency's board to recommend, on the basis of current evidence, that additional precautionary measures are needed to reduce the
possible risk to consumers from the atypical scrapie. The board is considering a proposal that the FSA should open discussions with the European Commission on labelling measures to identify meat from older sheep or goats and natural sausage casings made from sheep intestines.

This would allow consumers to make an informed choice about whether to buy the product, the FSA argues.

The agency's scientists call for further contingency planning measures, including a graduated strengthening of measures to protect consumers in response to one or more findings of BSE in the current UK sheep flock.

Cattle, sheep and goats are known to suffer from a group of transmissible neurological diseases known as TSEs. The best known of these is BSE in cattle.

Sheep can suffer from a related neurological disease, called scrapie. A recent opinion by the European Food Safety Authority recognised that, using the currently available tests, scrapie could
now be divided into two categories – scrapie and “atypical scrapie”.

Despite its name, which the FSA says may now be inappropriate, atypical scrapie does not appear to be a simple variant of classical scrapie, but is different from both classical scrapie and BSE. Atypical scrapie was only identified in 2002 upon the introduction of new, more sophisticated testing methods, although it may have been present in the flock for a long time, , the FSA stated in a document submitted to the board.

Atypical scrapie is has been identified in the UK's national flock, with FSA estimates putting the number at 82,000 cases. The disease has also been found in sheep throughout Europe. The disease has been found in sheep and goat imports into the UK from Germany, Ireland and Spain.

About 8,000 tonnes of UK mutton are consumed each year in Britain. The segment is worth about £400 million a year. The Meat and Livestock Commission estimates the total turnover of the UK sausage casing industry, related to sheep intestines, was £26 million in 2002.

The FSA estimates that if older sheep are kept out of the UK food chain would result in a loss of about £148m by auctioneers, processors, wholesalers and renderers if older animals are kept out of the food chain. About 700 jobs would be lost in the affected industries. An additional £48m would be needed if testing was put in place for all sheep over 18 months of age.

Before the BSE crisis in 1986, the UK's beef exports were worth about £1bn (€1.5bn) compared to £20m (€29m) in 2004, according to Food from Britain, a consultancy. The EU lifted the ban in May this year.

The board is meeting is scheduled to end after 1pm today in Bristol.

Sausages may - or may not - be 'linked' to scrapie

Jun 15 2006

Sam Burson, Western Mail

WELSH butchers and farmers are furious with a "scaremongering" food safety report which raises new fears of a BSE-style disease in sausages.

The Board of the Food Standards Agency is set to discuss today a report which the agency has produced on scrapie - a disease found in sheep - which centres on whether it could be passed onto humans in mutton or in sausage skins. Many smaller sausages, such as chipolatas, are made with sheep intestines.

The agency has stressed it is not advising people avoid the products - but has said its position could change as new evidence emerges.

It has warned that it cannot rule out a danger to humans from atypical scrapie in sheep, which is similar to BSE in cattle.

Many Welsh consumers are now faced with an anxious wait until more specific information regarding the report's actual findings on scrapie and the threat it may - or may not - pose to public health are revealed.

One section of the report reads, "While the agency is not advising anyone to stop eating sheep or goat meat or products, any possible risk could be reduced further by not eating meat from older animals.

"This is because if there were a risk it would be greater in older animals.

"In addition, some sausages are contained in natural sheep casings made from sheep intestines which are more likely to carry the disease agent and therefore could present a greater risk."

But industry leaders in Wales say there is no new evidence in the report and that to raise the issue now could inflict an unnecessary blow to consumer confidence.

Prys Morgan, from Hybu Cig Cymru/ Meat Promotion Wales, said, "It is very frustrating.

"There's no evidence of risk to human health - no new evidence and nothing for them to change.

"Consumer health is obviously important, but if there's something that's not evidence-based getting into the media it doesn't help."

William Lloyd Williams, vice-chair of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders, runs a farm, abattoir and butchers in the Machynlleth area. He said, "It's scare-mongering. These people who come up with these scrappy reports can be very frustrating.

"Being an independent butcher feels like trying to eat your dinner with boxing gloves on.

"It seems like every time we get over one hurdle, another one's put in the way for us.

"We're asking ourselves, 'What can be next?' We've only just started exporting beef again so they've come up with this."

"We already bend over backwards to comply with strict regulations, and they don't always make sense."

Classical scrapie has been recognised for centuries, but atypical scrapie was only detected a few years ago after advances in testing.

Scrapie is a fatal, degenerative disease that affects the nervous systems of sheep and goats. It is one of several transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), which are related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or "mad cow disease"). Classical scrapie has been known since the 18th century and does not appear to be transmissible to humans.

The disease apparently causes an uncontrollable itching sensation in affected animals, causing them to compulsively scrape off their fleece against rocks, trees or fences.

Current consumer guidance prepared by the FSA stresses that it is not yet possible to determine what risk, if any, the disease poses.

Controls already in place on animal feed and the cuts of meat that can be sold should also reduce the danger, it adds.

A paper written for the meeting says that about 82,000 sheep in Britain may be infected, compared with an estimated 56,000 with classical scrapie.

It goes on to say experiments have shown that the disease can be transmitted to mice in laboratory conditions, and that a "theoretical" risk to humans cannot be excluded.

But Welsh farming leaders yesterday insisted Welsh products are safe, with the farmer's Union of Wales saying, "The FSA have already stated quite clearly that the public health measures we currently have in place on this issue are perfectly adequate."

The Times June 14, 2006

New warning on mutton as brain disease hits sheep
By Valerie Elliott

Food experts say that BSE-style illness might affect humans

MEAT-EATERS have been told that avoiding mutton, goat and some sausages is the only way to reduce the risks from a new animal brain disease.
Britain’s food watchdog admitted yesterday that it could not rule out a risk to human health from the brain disease atypical scrapie, which is similar to BSE.

The advice from the Food Standards Agency raises the most serious concern about the safety of the meat since the discovery of “mad cow” disease in cattle. The new disease is similar to classic scrapie, a brain-wasting disease that has been known in sheep for more than 100 years, but which has never posed health concerns in human beings.

Mutton accounts for a quarter of sheep meat sold in Britain and is commonly used in many meat pies, pasties, curries and some ready meals. The risk from sausages comes from haggis and some upmarket brands that use casings made from sheep’s intestines.

The agency said that it was updating guidance to shoppers because it did not know whether atypical scrapie could affect health.

While it is not advising people to stop eating sheep or goat meat, or their dairy products, it makes clear that consumers can reduce the risk of a new disease.

However, shoppers will find it difficult to identify mutton products because there is no requirement to label it, except for pre-packed sausages. There is also no legal definition of what comprises mutton.

The agency is to ask the European Commission for the urgent introduction of new labelling rules that would mean manufacturers would have to identify products containing mutton.

Proposed new advice, to be discussed by the Food Standards Agency tomorrow, says: “While the agency is not advising anyone to stop eating sheep or goat meat or products, any possible risk could be reduced further by not eating meat from older animals.”

It adds: “In addition, some sausages are contained in natural sheep casings made from sheep intestines which are more likely to carry the disease agent and therefore could present a greater risk.”

Atypical scrapie is now identified in the national flock — there could be as many as 82,000 cases — and it has been found in sheep throughout Europe.

The move threatens to derail a new offensive from the Prince of Wales to bring about a renaissance in mutton eating. Peter Morris, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said last night that the agency advice would trigger a new food scare.

“It runs the risk of people not eating mutton and sends out negative messages about mutton, when there is no proven risk.

“The Prince of Wales is such a keen supporter for the revival in mutton I am sure he will be among the first to put out the message that people should keep potential risks in proportion and keep eating mutton.”

Peter Ainsworth, the Conservative rural affairs spokesman, said: “We need to be cautious about any threat to human health. But there is a real danger that a message of this kind will create serious difficulties for sheep farmers at a time when they least need further problems from government agencies

“It’s incredibly important that the FSA behaves in a measured and appropriate manner.”

The 8,000 tonnes of British mutton eaten each year in Britain is worth about £400 million a year.,,8122-2224875,00.html


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