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Johne's Disease

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 15 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what strategies she has in place for tackling the spread of Johne's disease in animals; and if she will make a statement. [106534]

Defra worked closely with the Food Standards Agency during the production of the FSA's strategy for the control of Mycobacterium avium sub-species paratuberculosis (MAP) in cows' milk a part of which was to assess and validate current methods for detecting MAP infection in cattle, organise a survey of MAP infection in the UK dairy herd and produce guidance for farmers on the control of MAP infection. The guidance is expected to be published shortly and the other two aspects are being taken forward by an expert sub-group of the Chief Veterinary Officer's Surveillance Group on Diseases and Infections of Animals (SGDIA).

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research her Department has undertaken into methods of controlling Johne's disease; and if she will make a statement. [106535]

The Department is carrying out no specific research into methods of controlling Johne's disease. The former MAFF commissioned the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) to carry out a detailed review of surveillance and control options for Johne's disease in farm animals in Great Britain. The report was published in May 2001 and is available on the Defra website.In view of the absence of an established link between Johne's disease in cattle and Crohn's disease in humans, the need for research on Johne's disease was considered against research needs in respect of other non-zoonotic endemic livestock diseases. A number of these diseases are more significant economically or have a greater adverse impact on sustainable development than Johne's disease; priority has therefore been given to research on those diseases.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what research her Department has undertaken into the relationship between Microbacterium avium sub-species paratuberculosis and (a) Crohn's and (b) Johne's disease. [106536]

Mycobacterium avium sub-species paratuberculosis has been known for many years to be the cause of Johne's disease. With regard to the relationship between Mycobacterium avium sub-species paratuberculosis and Crohn's disease experts differ in their opinion on such a link and worldwide there is no consensus. The Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens has on two occasions (1992 and 1998) concluded that a link could not be established on current evidence. A similar view was reached by the EU Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare.The Advisory Committee on he Microbiological Safety of Food did however, recommend that, given differing views on possible links to human illness, which are unlikely to be resolved in the foreseeable future, the Food Standards Agency should convene an expert group of stakeholders to look at ways to prevent the bacterium from entering the food chain. Consistent with this recommendation Defra's research programme has been directed towards reducing the levels of MAP in milk and milk products.