A case of BSE, commonly known as mad cow disease, has been detected on a farm in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, officials have revealed. A statement issued by Scottish authorities said “precautionary movement restrictions” had been put in place at the farm. Experts stressed it was a case of classical BSE, so posed no harm to human health.
Investigations are underway to determine the origin of the disease, which has not been seen in Scotland in 10 years. Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Following confirmation of a case of classical BSE in Aberdeenshire, I have activated the Scottish government’s response plan to protect our valuable farming industry, including establishing a precautionary movement ban being placed on the farm.”
The infected animal did not enter the food chain, and its offspring will now be tracked down and culled. One or two cases of BSE tend to be diagnosed in the UK each year, and animals over the age of four that die on farms are routinely tested. The last recorded case was in Wales in 2015.
Chief veterinary officer Sheila Voas said: “While it is too early to tell where the disease came from in this case, its detection is proof that our surveillance system is doing its job.”
“We are working closely with the Animal and Plant Health Agency to answer this question, and in the meantime, I would urge any farmer who has concerns to immediately seek veterinary advice.”
Ian McWatt, director of operations in Food Standards Scotland said: “There are strict controls 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 Scotland official veterinarians and meat hygiene inspectors working in all abattoirs in Scotland will continue to ensure that in respect of BSE controls, the safety of consumers remains a priority.
“We will continue to work closely with Scottish government, other agencies and industry at this time.”
Mad cow disease was first discovered in the UK in 1986. More than 180,000 cattle were infected when the disease was at its height, and 4.4 million were slaughtered in the eradication programme that followed. The epidemic in Britain reached its peak in 1993 with almost 1,000 new cases being reported every week, and British beef was subsequently banned in Europe. However, the disease then spread to other countries, including France and the US.