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Kedgley urges precautionary approach to vCJD scare

Kedgley urges precautionary approach to vCJD scare

Green MP Sue Kedgley is calling for scrutiny of our BSE controls, in the wake of revelations that a Waikato man may be suffering from the related "variant" Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD.)

"Regardless of whether this case is confirmed as vCJD or not, this scare should serve as a wake-up call that New Zealand is not the safe haven that health and agriculture officials would have us believe.

"The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation has warned that more than 100 countries are at risk of developing - and spreading - BSE because they have received stocks of potentially contaminated feed from Britain.

"Because if the poor testing regimes in these countries, and the time it takes for vCJD to emerge, there is the very real risk that the disease can have been spreading silently through the food chains of our trading partners for years.

"We have imported beef and beef food products from other high-risk countries.

"The European Union's Scientific Steering Committee found that New Zealand was unlikely to have BSE, but also found that if infected tissue ever did reach this country it would rapidly spread through our food chain because of our 'very unstable' internal controls.

"These include not removing 'high risk' tissues and organs from cattle carcasses and not using the high temperature system now mandatory in Europe to pressure cook slaughtered meat.

"Another concern is the continuing import of gelatine, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics which may contain bovine material.

"The Waikato case may not involve vCJD - and we sincerely hope it does not - but given our lax controls it is possible that BSE will eventually reach here, with disastrous consequences.

"This is too big an issue for our fate to be left in the hands of a small group of scientific advisors," said Sue Kedgley. "It needs, and deserves, the scrutiny of farmers, the public and MPs."

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