UK – The United Kingdom (UK) has confirmed a positive case of classical Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in its cattle herd, joining Brazil which confirmed two cases earlier this month subsequent to laboratory testing.

BSE is a brain disorder in adult cattle that may be spread to humans through diseased meat. The disease was detected in a six-year-old dairy cow from the county of Somerset. The cow was in-calf and close to calving, and the farmer had noticed abnormal behavior including abnormal head carriage, knuckling of fetlocks and aggression. The animal was humanely destroyed, and the case was unveiled during routine national BSE statutory surveillance and testing of all fallen stock aged over 48 months of age.

Two forms of BSE can be distinguished, the classical form, which occurs in cattle after ingesting prion contaminated feed, and the atypical form, which is believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations.

UK authorities said the animal was not presented for slaughter and did not enter the food chain, presenting no threat to food safety or human health. All of the affected animal’s 300 cohorts and offspring on the farm were identified and placed under movement restrictions. All will be culled and screened for BSE.

A UK Food Standards Agency spokesperson said strict controls were in place to protect consumers from the risk of BSE, including controls on animal feed, and removal of the parts of cattle most likely to carry BSE infectivity.

“Consumers can be reassured that these important protection measures remain in place and that Food Standards Agency Official Veterinarians and Meat Hygiene Inspectors working in all abattoirs in England will continue to ensure that the safety of consumers remains the top priority,” the agency said.

There have been five cases of confirmed BSE in the UK since 2014, with the last reported case in 2015. In Brazil’s case earlier this month, the detection of two atypical cases of BSE led to a voluntary suspension of trade to China. Brazil took similar action in its previous BSE case in June 2019, but re-opened trade a fortnight later.

Since Brazil’s cases were first confirmed, six other countries have taken steps to suspend some, or all beef imports from Brazil, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Russia, the Philippines and Iran.

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority has since lifted its suspension of Brazilian meat imports. Unlike Brazil, the UK is a relatively small beef exporter, shipping very small volumes of product into continental Europe.

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said in a statement that the UK’s overall risk status for BSE remains at ‘controlled’ and there was no risk to food safety or public health.

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