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24 December 2003
The New Zealand Food Safety Authority says that the case of BSE discovered in
the United States has no impact on the safety of food in this country.
NZFSA Executive Director, Andrew McKenzie, and Animal Biosecurity Director,
Derek Belton said that New Zealand has been treating the US the same as Canada
since BSE was found in Canadian cattle.
"It's common knowledge that there is a great deal of cattle movement
between Canada and the US, and we have been treating those populations as
homogenous. There are few imports of beef products from the US. These were
reassessed in terms of risk when we looked at the Canadian situation in May
2003. Imports have been monitored since.
"New Zealand remains BSE-free, with New Zealand cattle brains used as
the 'true negative' international standard for testing for BSE."
At the time the Canadian case of BSE was recognised in May, MAF traced back
all cattle imported from North America, visited their owners, and reminded them
of their responsibility to keep MAF updated of the animals whereabouts, and to
immediately notify MAF of any that die. As an additional precautionary measure
all cattle imported to New Zealand are tested for BSE when they die.
"The risk to human health in a situation such as the USA and Canada is
extremely low. It is generally accepted by the international scientific
community, that although the dose of infectious agent needed to infect cattle is
very small, the likelihood of the infectious agent crossing the species barrier
into humans is very low and the development of vCJD is a rare event. Even with
the massive exposure to infectious agent in the United Kingdom prior to the
removal of infective tissues from the human food chain, human cases have been
few and the rate of new cases is declining.
"The specific tissues that are likely to contain the infective agent,
and the time that they become infectious have recently become better defined.
While infectivity is restricted to a few tissues, far more are recognised as not
containing the infectious agent and are thus regarded as safe. Removal of
potentially infective tissues from the human food chain is relatively simple if
BSE exists in the cattle population.
"Transmission of the infectious agent between cattle is limited to
ingestion of the agent. Removal of potentially infective tissues from the animal
feed chain is also relatively simple. The ruminant to ruminant feed ban has been
a very effective measure to break the cycle of infection in cattle. BSE rates in
various countries over the previous 3 years have dropped significantly due to
the rigorous observance of ruminant to ruminant feeding bans.
"Of added value in reducing BSE in those countries with significant
rates of infection has been the testing, and exclusion from all food chains if
positive, of all animals over 30 months of age."
For more information contact:
Andrew McKenzie on 021 430 187 or Gary Bowering, Manager (Communications), NZFSA 027 443 2550
There is further information at:
BSE and TSE Frequently Asked Questions