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BSE Free Status Confirmed

MEDIA RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE USE

9 JULY 1999

Food and Fibre Minister John Luxton today welcomed news that New Zealand had played a crucial role in the successful development of new European tests for BSE.

BSE or bovine spongiform encephalopathy and its alleged link with a new strain of CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) has crippled the British beef industry. It is estimated to have cost the UK around $14 billion and has resulted in the slaughter of 4 million cattle.

The results of an evaluation of new tests carried out by the European Commission are reported in this week's "Nature", a leading scientific publication.

"The European Commission wished to evaluate newly developed tests for BSE and approached New Zealand because it is one country in the world where they could find cattle samples without BSE. New Zealand was the only country selected as the source for negative material because of its internationally recognised BSE free status."

"The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry supplied more than 1000 brains and spinal cords from randomly chosen cows slaughtered in New Zealand. These were used as the BSE-free control samples to evaluate the diagnostic tests, along with infected animals sourced from the UK."

"New Zealand's participation and the results of these tests give our trading partners even greater assurance that New Zealand is free of BSE .The results come at a time when New Zealand is seeking formal confirmation internationally from the European Commission of its BSE-free status."

"The aim of the test is to accurately identify BSE in animals. Tests can be used for diagnosis, disease surveillance or to give consumers additional assurances."

"It was superb to see that New Zealand was selected to participate in this evaluation and good to note that each of the samples New Zealand supplied, tested negative to all three tests. This is good news for New Zealand and great news for our trading partners," Mr Luxton concluded.

ENDS

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