'BSE' in sheep prompts ban

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The Independent Online
The Minister of Agriculture, Douglas Hogg, is expected to announce a ban, before Parliament rises this week, on the use of brain, spinal cord and spleen from goats and sheep for human consumption in the wake of a warning from the European Commission that sheep could be infected with a form of BSE.

EU farm ministers meeting in Brussels were playing down the idea of a threat to people eating lamb, insisting plans for a similar, Europe- wide ban announced yesterday by the Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler were precautionary.

Spokesmen for the British meat industry demanded more facts and one British scientist called for Mr Fischler's resignation, condemning his comments as "completely wrong".

New evidence is to be examined by EU vets next week following experiments showing that the disease can be transmitted to sheep. But officials privately expressed fears that a beef-style consumer panic could be triggered by suggestions, however theoretical, that the scale of the BSE problem could be greater than anyone thought.

The latest twist took ministers by surprise in Brussels, when Mr Fischler announced that he was proposing the same kind of anti-BSE measures adopted in the beef market now be applied to sheep and goats - and all "ruminants".

Mr Fischler told the ministers that there was "experimental evidence" that BSE could be transmitted to sheep, and added that certain questions had been raised: "...can we be sure that a case of so-called scrapie is not in fact BSE in sheep?"

Mr Hogg told a news conference there was no reason for there to be any consumer concern. He said sheep's brains were already removed from the human food chain in "99 per cent of cases" in the UK.

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