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Food and agriculture

Mad cow disease found on Scotland farm

Mad cow disease was first detected in Britain in the late 1980s, spreading from there to other parts of Europe and ravaging cattle herds until the early 2000s

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 6:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2018, 8:36pm

Scotland’s government said on Thursday that a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, had been discovered on a farm in Aberdeenshire.

A quarantine area has been put in place around the farm while inspectors try to identify the origin of the disease.

“I have activated the Scottish government’s response plan to protect our valuable farming industry, including establishing a precautionary movement ban being placed on the farm,” Scotland’s farming minister Fergus Ewing said in a statement. “This is standard procedure for a confirmed case of classical BSE, which does not represent a threat to human health.”

The government said the case posed no harm to humans as it did not enter the food chain.

“While it is too early to tell where the disease came from in this case, its detection is proof that our surveillance system is doing its job,” said Chief Veterinary Officer Sheila Voas. “I would urge any farmer who has concerns to immediately seek veterinary advice.”

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BSE was first detected in Britain in the late 1980s, spreading from there to other parts of Europe and ravaging cattle herds until the early 2000s, with more than 185,000 BSE cases in cattle confirmed in the European Union.

China recently agreed to lift its ban on UK beef imports after the sales had been stopped for more than two decades in the wake of mad cow disease.

Eating meat from animals infected with BSE has been tied to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, an incurable human illness that destroys brain tissue.

The confirmation of BSE in Scotland raises the risk that other countries will limit beef imports.

Professor Matthew Baylis, chair of veterinary epidemiology at Liverpool University, said one case was detected in Britain in 2014 and two in 2015.

“It is too early to say if this case is significant,” he said, adding it was likely to be an atypical sporadic case rather than one acquired like an infection. “With effective surveillance, countries without conventional BSE can detect odd cases of atypical BSE, and atypical cases in the UK must be expected.”

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg