Invite to Media Briefing on BSE

4 April 2001

In recent weeks misinformation about New Zealand's BSE and scrapie free status has circulated both here and overseas. In response to this, and to the concern consumers clearly feel about BSE, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is inviting media to a briefing on New Zealand's BSE-free status, the systems in place to prevent the disease entering New Zealand, to prevent its spread should a case ever arise and the surveillance in place to monitor this situation on an on-going basis.

The media briefing will be on Thursday 5 April in Wellington – details attached.

Accompanying Release:

The European Commission last week again acknowledged New Zealand's bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) free status.

Legislation recently passed by the Commission requires all countries exporting beef products to Europe to remove 'specified risk materials', such as spinal cords and brains, from the products. The requirement came into force on 1 April 2001.

"Europe has acknowledged our BSE-free status by exempting New Zealand, together with nine other countries, from this ban," says Andrew McKenzie, Group Director for MAF Food Assurance Authority. "In doing this, they are also demonstrating the confidence they have in New Zealand controls and products."

New Zealand has never had a case of BSE in our cattle population and is free from scrapie, a similar disease of sheep.

BSE is one of the group of brain wasting diseases, known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs. BSE is the form of the disease that occurs in cattle and damages brain cells resulting in the loss of control of limbs, trembling, wide-eyed staring, swaying of head, and erratic behaviour including charging, hence the term "mad cow disease". It was first identified in Britain in 1986.

New Zealand has in place a range of controls and regulations to prevent BSE and scrapie entering New Zealand, prevent their spread should a case ever arise and a surveillance system to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis.

"Despite the low risk of BSE entering New Zealand, these measures are constantly reviewed in light of new information or trade developments to ensure they continue to protect our BSE-free status and consumers of New Zealand product and mitigate any risks to trade" Dr McKenzie said.

ENDS

Media briefing: Thursday 5 April Time: 10am Where: Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Head office, Wellington, 101-103 The Terrace, Wellington

For further information contact:

Sandra Daly, Director, Business Services, MAF Food Assurance Authority

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33