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Independent expert to review Defra's work on BSE

by 5m Editor
25 November 2004, at 12:00am

UK - Professor William Hill FRS, Emeritus Professor at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology, School of Biological Sciences of the University of Edinburgh has been appointed by Defra to carry out an independent review of their work on BSE cases born since 1 August 1996 in the UK.

The Chief Veterinary Officer, Debby Reynolds said, "I am delighted that Professor Hill has agreed to undertake this review for us. There has been enormous progress in reducing the number of cattle infected with BSE in the UK since the first case was found in 1986. Much of this can be attributed to the controls that were put in place to prevent the spread of the disease in meat and bone meal, an ingredient that was used extensively in animal feed prior to 1988. These controls have gradually been tightened over ensuing years and in the UK particularly so since 1 August 1996.

Despite this we have had 99 cases of BSE born since 1 August 1996. The current advice, which has been considered by both SEAC and a European scientific advisory committee, is that feed contamination still remains the most plausible explanation, as the feed controls in some parts of Europe were not introduced until 2001. We have work in place to test this theory. However, there are also other possible explanations for at least some of these cases. We want to eradicate this disease and it is important for us to be sure that we are not overlooking any important factors and that the work we are doing is comprehensive and scientifically sound.

We have therefore invited Professor Hill to take a look at what we are doing. We have deliberately chosen someone who is eminent in his own field but who has not been involved in TSE work before. He can be expected to probe and challenge the evidence. If we can meet this challenge it will give us reassurance that we have not overlooked anything that might prevent us from getting rid of the disease by the end of 2010. If we have overlooked something it will give us time to put in place some additional studies.

I have asked Professor Hill to report his findings to me within the next six months and I will ask SEAC to consider these."

Source: Defra - 24th November 2004

5m Editor