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NZ needs stronger mad cow disease measures

NZ needs stronger mad cow disease measures

New Zealand should introduce greater precautions in our own meat industry to keep ourselves BSE-free, following the Canadian mad cow disease case, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

"We should be removing 'high-risk' tissue and organs from cattle carcasses, including the brain, spinal cord and organs most likely to harbour bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)," Ms Kedgley said. "We should also introduce a high temperature system to pressure-cook slaughtered meat."

Canada had similar BSE controls to those currently in place in New Zealand, and Canada was considered BSE-free till it discovered the infection.

"The European Union's scientific steering committee, which assesses the risk of countries developing BSE, has warned that if infected tissue ever gets into New Zealand, it would spread rapidly through our food chain because of our 'very unstable' internal controls," Ms Kedgley said.

"The removal of high-risk organs from cattle carcasses, and high temperature rendering systems are now mandatory in Europe because it is thought to kill off the BSE agent," she said.

"New Zealand needs to also urgently consider other measures such as excluding all cattle over 30 months of age from the food chain, unless it has been tested for BSE, as most European countries now do.

"Instead of relying on a passive surveillance system, in which farmers or abattoirs report on sick cows, New Zealand needs to consider testing slaughtered cattle for BSE," Ms Kedgley said.

"We should also ban the practice of feeding millions of animals - and even fish in fish farms - the rendered remains of other dead animals."

The Government should also investigate the wisdom of spreading fertiliser on farms and gardens containing meat and bone meal - thought to be the main carrier of mad cow disease. It should also consider banning 'mechanically recovered meat' (the bits of meat and gristle left on bones that are mechanically removed by a machine and used in making pies, sausages and reconstituted meat products).

Ms Kedgley pointed out that, to date, there has been no public scrutiny of our response to the potentially global BSE epidemic. A small group of officials on a BSE coordinating committee are providing advice to our Ministers, but in private. Ms Kedgley said it was time we had public and parliamentary scrutiny of our response to BSE.

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