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Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 26 June 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what advice he has received from the Tyrrell committee on the question of the removal of bovine brains.

As I indicated during the debate on bovine spongiform encephalopathy on 21 May, I asked the advisory committee on spongiform encephalopathies to consider slaughterhouse practices. I received verbal advice from the committee on 13 June that the recovery of head meat from bovine skulls should not be undertaken after the removal of the brain. I have accepted this advice and have issued appropriate guidance to local authorities. I shall, of course, take account of any further advice that the committee offers in formulating future action on slaughterhouse procedures.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what procedures he has introduced to protect farmworkers who handle cattle placenta from the possibility of cross-infection with the agent responsible for bovine spongiform encephalopathy; and if he will make a statement.

I have been asked to reply.The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) has recently produced an advisory note on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) for farmers. This includes advice on calving animals suspected to be suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy, including the handling of placentae.This advice has been discussed with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and reinforces the executive's advice on the procedures needed to minimise the risks of transmission of all infections from animals to man. The Health and Safety Executive is closely watching research developments in this field and will produce further advice as and when necessary.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what precautions are in force to protect workers in abattoirs who handle animal tissue deemed unfit for human consumption and bovine offals banned for human consumption from the possibility of cross-infection; and if he will make a statement.

I have been asked to reply.The Health and Safety Executive's field staff is available to give advice on work activities to employers and employees when necessary on any health risks associated with cattle, their carcases and their products which may be infected with BSE. The HSE has produced a free leaflet entitled "BSE and carcase disposal" which sets out hygiene precautions that will protect workers from diseases of cattle known to affect man. It has also agreed guidance that has been published by the British Meat Manufacturers Association which is being distributed to all slaughterhouses, and meat preparation and butchery sectors.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the possibility of the subcutaneous transference of the infective agent responsible for bovine spongiform encephalopathy; and if he will make a statement.

The risk to human health from such transmission is remote, but the Health and Safety Executive has issued advice to guard against occupational exposure by cuts and abrasions. Experimental studies are in progress to determine the transmissibility of BSE to various host species by parenteral and oral routes of exposure.

To ask the Minister of Agriculure, Fisheries and Food if he will publish a table showing the distribution of the total number of confirmed cases of BSE, by county, in the United Kingdom in the four weeks to 17 June.

The information for Great Britain is as follows:

CountyNumber
Avon20
Bedfordshire4
Berkshire7
Buckinghamshire10
Cambridge4
Cheshire30
Cleveland1
Clwyd8
Cornwall46
Cumbria11
Derbyshire23
Devon97
Dorset103
Dumfries7
Durham7
Dyfed47
Essex3
Fife5
Glamorgan Mid4
Glamorgan South2
Gloucestershire26
Grampian15
Gwent5
Hampshire39
Hereford and Worcestershire18
Hertfordshire5
Highland2
Humberside4
Isle of Wight9
Kent23
Lancashire18
Leicestershire28
Lincolnshire4
London1
Lothian1
Manchester1
Norfolk20
Northants8
Northumberland7
Nottinghamshire5
Orkney1
Oxon13
Powys5
Salop24
Somerset106
Staffordshire26
Strathclyde9
Suffolk14
Surrey4
Sussex East15
Sussex West22
Tayside1
Warwickshire13
Wiltshire64
Yorkshire North33
Yorkshire South5
Yorkshire West8
Total1,041

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under what circumstances cattle may be awarded a veterinary certificate stating they are free from BSE; and if he will make a statement.

There is no test for BSE in the live animal, so no such certificate can be given.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he has taken to ascertain whether BSE or a related condition is present in Holsteins of north American origin; and if he will make a statement.

BSE has been confirmed in most breeds, including Holsteins. I am not aware that any of these originated in north America. The epidemiological survey carried out into BSE discounts imported cattle as being the cause.

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the infective agent responsible for BSE has been detected in cattle placenta; and if he will make a statement.

No, but transmission experiments are in progress using placenta from BSE-affected cattle.