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MAF Goes Beyond The Call In Testing For BSE in NZ

4 December 2001

MAF goes beyond the call in testing for BSE in New Zealand

An on-going review of the systems in place to continue to protect bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)-free New Zealand from the disease has highlighted that we have much to gain from an enhanced testing programme due to start this month, MAF’s Food Assurance Authority Director Andrew McKenzie said today.

“New Zealand is internationally recognised as BSE-free. Our existing systems meet international requirements. However, in partnership with the industry, we want to go beyond this in order to protect New Zealand.”

A group comprising industry representatives and MAF is regularly reviewing the systems New Zealand has in place to protect against the introduction of BSE, and to prevent the disease spreading in the unlikely event that it enters New Zealand.

“MAF is currently confident that it has in place good systems to protect against the introduction of BSE. All possible entry points have been closed for many years and New Zealand has strong controls at the border.

“However, the regular review identified that, as a country with so much riding on our reputation for producing safe food, boosting our levels of testing to provide additional surveillance and information would enhance our ability to respond to concerns both now and in the future. This also reflects modern scientific developments and the latest experiences from countries that have had to deal with BSE.

“MAF, working in partnership with the meat and farming industries, now aims to increase the level of testing that has been in place in New Zealand since 1989. The number of cattle brains tested for the disease will be increased and is aimed at strengthening the confidence of New Zealand consumers and trading partners. This will also increase our chances of detecting the disease early in the unlikely event that it should ever find its way into New Zealand.

“We are working in a new area of science with many unknown factors and we have to be prepared to deal with any situations that may arise. New Zealand has one of the strongest cases for claiming BSE freedom and we are confident that the pro-active partnership approach we are taking is in the best interests of New Zealand consumers and our vital meat industry,” Mr McKenzie said.

BSE has wrought havoc for farmers in countries where it has been found and variant Creutzfeld Jakob disease (vCJD), the human disease associated with BSE, has caused more than 115 deaths in the United Kingdom. No cases of vCJD have been diagnosed outside Europe.

“New Zealand is fortunate not to have BSE and MAF is determined to ensure that our consumers and cattle population continue to be protected from this disease. Our economy also has a big stake in our safe trade in meat and meat products,” says Mr McKenzie.

ENDS

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