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NZ's BSE Free Status

The European Commission last week again acknowledged New Zealand's bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) free status.

Legislation recently passed by the Commission requires all countries exporting beef products to Europe to remove 'specified risk materials', such as spinal cords and brains, from the products. The requirement came into force on 1 April 2001.

"Europe has acknowledged our BSE-free status by exempting New Zealand, together with nine other countries, from this ban," says Andrew McKenzie, Group Director for MAF Food Assurance Authority. “In doing this, they are also demonstrating the confidence they have in New Zealand controls and products.”

New Zealand has never had a case of BSE in our cattle population and is free from scrapie, a similar disease of sheep.

BSE is one of the group of brain wasting diseases, known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs. BSE is the form of the disease that occurs in cattle and damages brain cells resulting in the loss of control of limbs, trembling, wide-eyed staring, swaying of head, and erratic behaviour including charging, hence the term "mad cow disease”. It was first identified in Britain in 1986.

New Zealand has in place a range of controls and regulations to prevent BSE and scrapie entering New Zealand, prevent their spread should a case ever arise and a surveillance system to monitor the situation on an ongoing basis.

“Despite the low risk of BSE entering New Zealand, these measures are constantly reviewed in light of new information or trade developments to ensure they continue to protect our BSE-free status and consumers of New Zealand product and mitigate any risks to trade” Dr McKenzie said.


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