BSE `more widespread than feared'

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The Independent Online
RANDOM testing at a slaughterhouse late last year indicated that nearly one in three cattle going into the human food supply was infected with "Mad Cow" disease, writes Mark Watts. The results, which suggest that BSE may be far more widespread in British herds than previously thought, are revealed in a scientific paper to be published tomorrow.

The tests were carried out last November by Harash Narang, one of the first scientists to claim a link between BSE and its human form CJD. Using an electron micrscope, he examined 27 cow brains from slaughtered animals believed to be BSE-free, and concluded that eight - or 29 per cent - were infected with the disease. "The consequences of this are horrendous," he said yesterday.

Official figures show that 161,000 BSE cases have been logged out of a national herd of 11 million. The brains were from animals over four years old, because the incubation period for the disease is typically four or five years. Meat from all the cattle involved had already gone into the human food supply. It is believed to be the first time that such random testing has been carried out.

Dr Narang, whose research is to be published in the journal of the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, believes that BSE is so widespread throughout the British herd that the only way to tackle the disease is to test for the disease in all live cattle destined for the human food chain. He was developing such a test at a Government laboratory when his work was stopped in 1990.