Monitoring of BSE risk in UK
Seventeen years after the EU ban on animal proteins in livestock feed was enforced in 2001, the confirmation of an isolated case of classical BSE in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, showed the continuing presence on farms of the abnormal Bse-causing prion proteins which infect the animals’ brains, spinal cords and bodily tissues.
The five-year-old Scottish cow died on the farm, and was not presented for slaughter, and did not enter the food chain.
The presence of BSE was detected in routine official surveillance of fallen cattle. It was the first case in Scotland since 2008, and BSE was last found in the UK in 2015, in Wales. At the disease’s peak in the early 1990s, it infected more than 30,000 cows a year but, until this month, there had been only five cases in the UK since 2012.
Ireland had a case in 2017, but that was atypical BSE, which is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations.
The latest case in Scotland is classical BSE due to ingesting prion-contaminated feed. Ireland had a classical BSE case in Co Louth in 2015. The UK’S Animal and Plant Health Agency stopped animals going in or out of the farm, as a precaution until it figures out how the cow got the disease. Scotland will be stripped of its previous mad cow disease “negligible” risk status, and is moving to “controlled risk”, which will restrict where Scottish beef can be exported. The rest of Great Britain, and Ireland, also have “controlled risk” status. However, Northern Ireland has negligible risk status. More than 60 cases of classical BSE (which is also the type transmissible to humans) have been reported in cattle born since the EU’S 2001 ban on animal proteins in livestock feed. Most of these cases were in the UK and Ireland. Classical BSE first emerged in the mid-1980s in the UK as a result of feeding cows beef offal.