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BSE

Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the possibility of establishing whether particular herds of cattle are BSE free; and what action is being taken so as to identify cattle which are affected. [18205]

Mr. Baldry [holding answer 10 March 1997]: The beef assurance scheme--BAS--and the export certified herds scheme--ECHS--are based on the identification and verification of factors which taken together indicate that the cattle concerned have not been exposed to a risk of BSE. The BAS is already in operation. Proposals for the ECHS were sent to the European Commission in February and will be discussed by the Commission's

17 Mar 1997 : Column: 374

scientific advisory committees and the standing committee as part of the Florence framework for lifting the export ban.

Mr. McNamara: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the effect of recent publicity on the state of British abattoirs on EC officials' consideration of the lifting of the BSE ban on (a) British and (b) Northern Irish beef. [20399]

Mrs. Browning: Much of the media coverage of BSE in recent months has been unhelpful to United Kingdom veterinary interests. I hope and expect the Commission and their independent scientific advisers to consider the case on its merits.

Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his estimate of the chance and confidence intervals for cattle developing BSE that their dam would have had BSE; and if he will break down the results to indicate the impact of whether the calf was (a) first born, (b) second born, (c) third born and (d) a later birth. [18203]

Mrs. Browning [holding answer 10 March 1997]: The chance of BSE offspring cases developing BSE is 1 per cent. Confidence intervals are not appropriate as this is the observed percentage from the epidemic. It is not possible to provide the breakdown of this percentage with any accuracy into first born, second born, third born or a later birth, but there are indications that the risk is greater in calves born closer to the time when a cow develops BSE than in those born earlier.

Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what reports he has received on the outcome of tests relating to the destruction of BSE infective material through incineration. [18132]

Mrs. Browning [holding answer 10 March 1997]: No tests have been carried out on the destruction of BSE infective material through incineration.

Advice was sought from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee on the effectiveness of the incinerators used by the Ministry for the disposal of BSE suspect carcases to destroy the BSE infective agent. The committee has advised, on the basis of its knowledge of earlier studies on the inactivation of TSE agents and proteins in general, that provided incineration was completed, the incinerators used by the Ministry were more than adequate to render the BSE agent inactive.

Mr. Hinchliffe: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the modal average age of cattle which died of BSE and were born in each year from 1985 to 1993. [18200]

Mrs. Browning [holding answer 10 March 1997]: The table shows the modal age at slaughter of confirmed BSE cases with dates of birth between 1985 and 1993:

Year of birthModal age at slaughter
19855
19865
19875
19885
19895
19905
19914
19924
19933

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Mrs. Helen Jackson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food pursuant to his answer of 25 February, Official Report, column 194, regarding the level of infectivity in rendered meat and bone meal from cattle slaughtered in the over-30-months scheme, what is the maximum level of infectivity (in IU per gram) that is estimated to be present in the rendered material being considered for incineration. [18972]

Mr. Baldry: Very little infective material is likely to enter rendering plants as cattle suspected of showing clinical signs suggestive of BSE are destroyed by incineration. However, some animals may be incubating disease even though they do not show clinical signs of infection. In 1996 the number of such animals, based on independent research, Anderson et al, 1996, is estimated to have been around 4,600, and most of these would, we believe, have been among the 1.1 million animals slaughtered under the over-30-months scheme--0.418 per cent. BSE infectivity is most likely to be in the brain and spinal cord of cattle, which together weigh approximately 1 kg. On the assumption that the average carcase weighs 500kg, this equates to 550,000 tonnes of carcase material arising from the OTMS last year of which 4.6 tonnes--0.0008 per cent.--could have contained infectivity. In addition, the rendering process itself is expected to reduce any infectivity present fiftyfold.

The amount of infectivity per gram, if any, remaining in rendered material cannot be reliably established without conducting the tests on mice, referred to in the reply given to the hon. Member on 25 February 1997, Official Report, columns 193-94 which would take two years and would be extremely expensive.

Mr. David Nicholson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received about the liability of providers of contaminated feedstuffs to the dairy and beef farming industry for the spread and costs of BSE; and if he will make a statement. [19593]

Mrs. Browning: This Department has received a number of letters from individuals and Members of Parliament querying the liability of providers of contaminated feedstuffs to the farming industry in the context of the cause and spread of BSE. To say how many and from whom they were received could be done only at disproportionate cost.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much was paid to Electophoretics International by his Department for work to find a diagnostic test for BSE. [20666]

Mrs. Browning: No money was paid to Electrophoretics International as the Ministry had not commissioned any work from it.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evaluation he has made of (a) the work to find a diagnostic test for BSE which was conducted for his Department by Electrophoretics International and (b) the value for money of that work. [20668]

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Mrs. Browning: Electrophoretics International has not been commissioned to conduct work for MAFF, and no payment has been made to EI by MAFF. It is therefore not appropriate to consider evaluation or value for money.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which companies and research bodies have been commissioned by his Department to undertake work into finding a diagnostic test for BSE. [20663]

Mrs. Browning: The following organisations have been funded by MAFF to undertake work into finding a diagnostic test for BSE:


A further contract with Newcastle University is in preparation.

An open competition for research funding for development of novel methods for the diagnosis of BSE was announced by MAFF to the international scientific community in August 1996. Proposals were reviewed by independent referees and three proposals from UK research laboratories were taken up for funding in January 1997 these are included in the list above. Two further proposals are being followed up; a joint proposal from two Swiss companies (Paul Scherrer Institute and CSEM, Centre Suisse D'Electronique Etude Microtechnique, S.A.) and the California Institute of Technology.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what meetings took place between Ministers and officials of his Department and board members and officials of Electrophoretics International (a) prior to the contract for research into a diagnostic test for BSE being let, (b) during the life of the contract and (c) after the expiration date of the contract. [20667]

Mrs. Browning: The agreement was signed on 22 December 1995 and has not expired in respect of all its provisions. MAFF officials attended two meetings with Electrophoretics International representatives prior to the signing of the agreement and two meetings subsequently. This is in addition to contact between scientists from the Central Veterinary Laboratory, Weybridge and EI on research collaboration as provided for in the agreement.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on what basis the contract between the Ministry of Agriculture and Electrophoretics International for research into a diagnostic test for BSE was tendered; how many others tenders were received; and what involvement Ministers had in the decision to let the contract to Electrophoretics International. [20665]

Mrs. Browning: The nature of the agreement between MAFF and Electrophoretics International was one of collaboration. The Ministry did not commission any work from EI. This was not a contract to develop a diagnostic test and a tendering process was not relevant.

17 Mar 1997 : Column: 377

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the contract for research into a diagnostic test for BSE with Electrophoretics International ended; for what reasons it was not renewed; and what plans he has for further contracts with the company. [20669]

Mrs. Browning: MAFF has a collaborative agreement with Electrophoretics International which continues to operate. MAFF will continue to treat the company in the same way as all other bodies in relation to research and supply of materials. There are no plans for any further contracts with EI.


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