BSE Inquiry

One BSE lamb may lead all sheep to slaughter

The Government is ready to order the slaughter of the country's entire population of 40 million sheep if BSE is found in lamb BY VALERIE ELLIOTT,,348-35670,00.html

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) confirmed that under new emergency plans there could be a complete ban on people eating British-reared lamb and mutton.

The contingency plans, to be set out in a report to Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, before Christmas, emerged last night after calls from Sir John Krebs, the chairman of the Food Standards Agency, for a new screening programme to check urgently whether sheep in Britain could be infected with BSE.

A ministry spokeswoman admitted last night that the draconian slaughter plan existed and that officials were working on the assumption that if BSE were found in sheep the FSA would declare all British sheep meat unsafe and impose its total ban in the food chain.

Another possibility, however, is that meat from sheep genetically immune to BSE-type diseases would still be allowed on sale. But even under this scenario millions of sheep would have to be destroyed.

Sir John suggested yesterday that a new test be developed as soon as practicable to check sheep entering the food chain in abattoirs. He emphasised, however, that there was no evidence of BSE in sheep and that for 200 years scrapie, a similar brain disease, had posed no risk to people.

But in the aftermath of the BSE inquiry by Lord Phillips, Sir John backed the need for further checks to ensure that scrapie was not masking an epidemic in the flocks.

Concerns that BSE might exist in sheep and other animals were raised recently by Professor John Collinge, of Imperial College School of Medicine, who demonstrated that a sub-clinical but infectious form of BSE might exist in animals without showing symptoms.