Tough measures reduce BSE level by two-thirds

FOOD
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The Independent Online
The incidence of "mad cow" disease, or BSE, has declined by more than two-thirds in the past two years, according to new Government figures published yesterday.

The Ministry of Agriculture reported that the number of confirmed cases of bovine spongiform encepalopathy to 30 June this year is 1,716. That compares with 8,010 for the whole of 1996, and 14,299 for 1995.

The junior agriculture minister, Lord Donoughue, said the latest figure was 56 per cent less than at the same stage in 1996, and 70 per cent less than at the same time in 1995. He added: "A continued improvement is expected for the future." Scientific estimates are that BSE will have virtually disappeared in Britain by 2001.

The fall is due to improved practices in the production of meat and bone meal, which now excludes various cattle offals, and the culling of all cattle over 30-months-old. BSE infected roughly 1 million British cattle since the first case was identified in 1985, and is reckoned to have so far caused 19 cases of the fatal "new variant" of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in Britons.

Lord Donoughue also confirmed the Government's intention to introduce a computerised cattle traceability system "as soon as we can. Work is now underway, including discussions on detailed points of implementation with the livestock industry."

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