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AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Bovine Offals

Mr. Sykes: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the State Veterinary Service's surveillance of the handling of special bovine offals in September and October; and if he will make a statement. [2310]

Mr. Douglas Hogg: In September, the State Veterinary Service reported unannounced visits to 193 slaughterhouses and found failings in the handling of specified bovine offals in 92 to 48 per cent.--of them. In October the SVS reported visits to 153 slaughterhouses and found failings in 52 to 34 per cent. Many of the failings found were of a comparatively mild nature, for example reflecting teething troubles with the new stain. There were, however, some more serious problems, for example with the poor separation and storage of SBO material. This risks such material becoming mixed with other waste products which can then enter the animal feed chain. In the most serious cases we found small pieces of spinal cord, ranging in size from 1 cm to one third of the spinal cord, left attached to the carcases after dressing. So far, we have found 17 such instances, including one found during preliminary visits in the summer and five found up to 10 November and one on 20 November in the latest round of visits. Although in each instance the spinal cord was removed before the carcases left the premises, these were potentially serious failings. It is essential that we eliminate any prospect of SBO material entering the human food chain.

I view this most seriously and have therefore taken a number of steps to ensure that slaughterhouses fully comply with the requirements of the Specified Bovine Offal Order 1995. First, I have discussed the situation with the chief executive of the Meat Hygiene Service and he will ensure that his staff enforce the requirements of the order most rigorously. Secondly, where it has sufficient evidence, the Meat Hygiene Service will prosecute any slaughterhouse operator failing to meet his obligations under the SBO order. A number of prosecutions are already under consideration. Thirdly, I have asked the SVS to double the frequency of its unannounced surveillance visits to cattle slaughterhouses and head boning plants. Finally, I met representatives of slaughterhouse operators on 9 November to impress on them the need for full compliance with these controls. They assured me of their commitment to seeing the requirements fully met, and I welcomed their constructive response.

The SVS also visits knackeries and hunt kennels to monitor their compliance with the SBO controls. In September, it made unannounced visits to 212 such premises and found failings in the handling of SBOs in 137 of them--65 per cent. In October, the SVS visited 235 hunt kennels and knackeries and found failings in 70 to 29 per cent. Again, many of the failings found were of a comparatively mild nature. Hunt kennels and knackeries do not handle meat for human consumption; nevertheless, failings in the handling of SBOs at such premises could result in such material entering the animal feed chain. This is of concern. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has, therefore, met representatives of hunt kennels and knackeries to impress on them too the need to comply

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fully with the controls on SBOs. She welcomed the constructive response from the respective representative organisations.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Mr. Sykes: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which bovine tissues are known to transmit BSE infectivity and at what stages in the animal's life they are infectious; and if he will make a statement. [2311]

Mr. Douglas Hogg: A large number of tissues from cattle known to be naturally infected with BSE have been tested to determine whether they can transmit disease when inoculated intra-cerebrally and intra-peritoneally into susceptible strains of mice. Recent results have shown that two further tissues, the retina and the terminal spinal cord, can transmit BSE infectivity to mice, as well as those tissues already identified that can contain BSE infectivity, the brain and the cervical spinal cord. Infectivity had also been detected in the distal ileum of calces which has been experimentally challenged with BSE; this was first announced in an answer given to my hon. Friend the Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) by my right hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) on 30 June 1994, Official Report, column 657-58. These new findings do not require any changes to the regulations concerning BSE. Both the retina and terminal spinal cord are already covered by the Specified Bovine Offal Order 1995. They have to be removed from all cattle over six months at slaughter and are destroyed. Such tissues are thereby prevented from entering the human and animal food chains.

In addition to the above tissues, a large number of other tissues from cattle affected with BSE have been tested to see if they can transmit the disease to mice. Tests on the following tissues have been negative:


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We are also carrying out experiments to look at the way in which infectivity develops in different tissues over time. Four-month-old calves were fed infected brain from cattle with BSE. Animals were slaughtered at intervals subsequently and a large number of their tissues tested on each occasion to see if they could transmit the disease in mice. Animals developed clinical signs of BSE from 35 months after challenge onwards.

So far, we have obtained complete results on the tissue assays of animals slaughtered at two, six, 10 and 14 months after challenge. At two months, no tissue showed infectivity. From six months onwards the distal ileum-- part of the small intestine--shows BSE infectivity. No other tissue tested, including the brain, spinal cord and thymus, has shown any infectivity in animals up to 14 months after challenge. Infectivity has also been detected in the ileum of animals killed 18 months after challenge, but assays of other tissues from these cattle are not yet complete.

These results support the existing precautionary controls on specified bovine offals. These require the intestines and thymus to be removed from all animals on slaughter and be destroyed. The brain, spinal cord, spleen and tonsils have to be removed from all cattle over six months old on slaughter and destroyed.

Dr. Strang: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many United Kingdom farms have had at least one case of BSE. [1520]

Mr. Hogg: A total of 34,064 farms have had at least one case of BSE.

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Dr. Strang: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many cases of BSE were confirmed in the United Kingdom in each year from 1986 to the latest available date. [1522]

Mr. Hogg: Bovine spongiform encephalopathy was first identified in November 1986. Information on the incidence of the disease prior to this date is not recorded.

The following is a table of the number of confirmed cases of BSE in the United Kingdom up to 17 November 1995. The cases prior to 21 June 1988 in Great Britain and 29 November 1988 in Northern Ireland when the disease was made notifiable, are recorded by year of clinical onset of disease and the cases thereafter are recorded by year of restriction.

YearNumber
19867
1987435
1988 (pre-notification)286
1988 (post-notification)2,187
19897,166
199014,294
199125,202
199237,057
199334,830
199424,289
199511,031


Dr. Strang: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, what percentage of (a) United Kingdom dairy herds, (b) United Kingdom beef suckler herds and (c) total United Kingdom herds have experienced at least one case of BSE. [1519]

Mr. Hogg: As at 17 November 1995, 50.5 per cent. of United Kingdom dairy herds and 12.6 per cent. of beef herds have experienced at least one case of BSE. 29.5 per cent. of the total United Kingdom herds have experienced at least one case of BSE.

Dr. Strang: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much money was spent by the Government in respect of BSE on (a) research, (b) slaughter, (c) compensation and (d) disposal of carcases in (i) 1993, (ii) 1994 and (iii) 1995 to the latest available date. [1521]

Mr. Hogg: The following table shows the amount spent in respect of compensation and disposal for the financial years 1993-1994, 1994-95, and 1995-96 up to 31 October 1995. It is not possible without disproportionate cost to calculate slaughter costs separate from the other costs of field work by the State Veterinary Service. Euthanasia is predominantly carried out by veterinary officers who are already present on farm for the purpose of carrying out clinical examination of suspects, although occasionally it may require a separate visit.

YearsCompensationDisposal
1993-9437,468,0858,753.603
1994-9520,138,2395,552,494
1995-966,012,4761,952.019

Includes estimates for Northern Ireland.

The following amounts were spent on BSE research in the financial years:


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