How to spot BSE and what farmers can do to prevent it

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No concerns over animal feed as Irish BSE case confirmed

The Department of Agriculture has confirmed an ’isolated case’ in a five year-old-cow, which is likely to affect Ireland’s BSE status.

The Irish Government has insisted there are no concerns over Ireland’s commercial feed supply after confirming the country’s first case of BSE in two years.


But Ireland is likely to lose its recently acquired ‘negligible risk’ BSE status after final tests confirmed the disease in a five-year cow from a herd in county Louth.


The Department of Agriculture confirmed this was an isolated case of ‘classical’ BSE in a single animal after identifying and all animals potentially exposed to the BSE agent that caused this incident.


That included 63 animals born and reared on the birth-farm one year either side of the birth date of the positive animal, and her four progeny.


These have all been slaughtered, excluded from the food and feed chains, and tested, showing negative results in each case.


Both the dam and grand dam, which was imported, of the infected animal tested negative for BSE at slaughter, and therefore vertical transmission is not considered to be a factor in this case.


The Department said there were ‘no concerns’ regarding the integrity of the commercial feed supply chain or the effectiveness of the feed control systems.


It pointed out that in 2009 and 2010, more than 3,800 feed inspections took place, and almost 2,500 feed samples, including 52 from suppliers to the farm on which the positive case was found, were tested for the presence of processed animal proteins.

Meat and bonemeal

All tested negative for meat and bone meal. Test results from feed currently on the farm are also negative.


The investigation has not identified anything to distinguish this case from the other cases of classical BSE that have been seen in Ireland or elsewhere.


A diminishing number of such cases have been identified in Ireland and in other countries over the years, the last one being in 2013, while the UK’s last case was last year.


The Department’s statement does not speculate on the origin of this case. Some vets believe, however, that the isolated cases still emerging might be due to random genetic mutations in the individual animals.


The Department said the identification of classical BSE cases after the implementation of the ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal is not unprecedented.


The EU Commission and the OIE, the international animal disease body, have been informed of the results.


It is expected that the OIE will reassign ‘controlled risk’ status to Ireland, which only recently achieve negligible risk status.


Speaking earlier this month when the suspected case was identified Ireland’s Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said: “It is unfortunate that the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) last week put Ireland on clear status as regards our beef after 11 years of being seen as a controlled risk, and in all likelihood that will revert once again.


“But that should make no difference to our trade partners who have been contacted and reassured that the situation is in hand.”


Irish Farmers Association president Eddie Downey said Ireland’s export and home markets had responded to the news of this case ’in a calm and balanced manner’.



He said consumers could be re-assured about the robustness of the food safety controls in place in Ireland.

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Ireland's BSE status

Confirmation of classical BSE in a domestic animal which is less than 11 years old means that Ireland no longer meets the parameters set out in the OIE code for its recently earned negligible risk status for BSE.


It is likely to revert back to controlled risk status, which recognises the effective application of controls and provides a basis for the safe trade in animals and products.


Controls in place are:

  • A ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal to ruminants
  • Effective rendering processes
  • Systematic testing of feed supplies
  • Active and passive animal level surveillance and testing for the disease
  • Ante-mortem checks conducted by veterinarians on all animals prior to slaughter to ensure that only healthy animals enter the food chain
  • The removal and destruction, on a precautionary basis, of certain specified risk materials from slaughtered animals
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