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Test EVERY Cow in the Food Chain

Test EVERY Cow in the Food Chain
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

UK Meat-Board Downplays Scrappie Outbreak

Meat board downplays scrapie find in NZ ewes offshore

Wed, 18 Feb 2009
News: National

British research showing that a prion disease, atypical scrapie, may rise spontaneously in New Zealand sheep should not impact on the nation's meat exports, says an industry leader.
Meat and Wool industry board chairman Mike Petersen said on Wednesday that though the disease has a similar name to classical scrapie "there is no proof that it is linked at all".

"It's business as usual, and we don't expect there to be any impacts on the sector".

But Mr Petersen said there was a risk in people offshore confusing classical and atypical scrapie: "The last thing we need is to have these sorts of issues floating around".

Both diseases are transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) illnesses, a family of diseases that includes scrapie in sheep and goats, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, in cattle, chronic wasting disease in deer, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in people.

BSE and creutzfeldt-jacob disease can kill humans, but neither form of scrapie is known to affect people

Mr Petersen said more was now known about atypical scrapie than when it was first suspected in a New Zealand ewe held on a high-security research farm in Britain.

At the time, NZ authorities and industry officials questioned whether it might have been infected locally, but this has been discounted in research which has just been published with the conclusion that it has arisen spontaneously in three sheep from the NZ research animals offshore, which were all over six years old.

Now that it was regarded as a degenerative disease in ageing sheep, it was thought unlikely to have any production impact on NZ sheep, which usually are sent to slaughter after five years.

Classical scrapie can occur in much younger sheep, and may be capable of being spread from animal to animal. It is not present in New Zealand, and no cases of atypical scrapie have been recorded on NZ soil. New Zealand has never had the other main prion disease in livestock, BSE in cattle and chronic wasting disease in deer.

Atypical scrapie was identified first in 1998 in Norway and at that time was called Nor98. Most cases are detected in apparently healthy sheep by post mortem examination during routine slaughter.

The Food Safety Authority said today on its website that the UK spongiform encephalopathy advisory committee (SEAC) had concluded that: "It may be more appropriate to consider atypical scrapie as a distinct TSE of small ruminants and not simply a variant of what is now called scrapie".

An MAF executive, Peter Thomson, earlier this month posted a declaration that New Zealand is free from scrapie.

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