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BSE-free status confirmed

13 November 2002

BSE-free status confirmed

New Zealand cattle are free of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).

The EU Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) has reconfirmed New Zealand’s BSE-free status saying it is highly unlikely that domestic cattle in New Zealand are infected with the BSE agent. It gave New Zealand a Category 1 status (GBR I) – the highest achievable category representing the lowest risk.

BSE is one of a group of brain wasting diseases that occurs in adult cattle. It was first identified in Britain in 1986.

The SSC provides an opinion based on the geographical risk of BSE and the likelihood of the presence of one or more cattle being infected with BSE. New Zealand’s BSE status was last examined in 2000. The result of that was also Category 1.

“Due to the fact that only negligible BSE infectivity entered the country, there was no risk that BSE infectivity was recycled or propagated. It is therefore concluded that it is highly unlikely that domestic cattle are (clinically or pre-clinically) infected with the BSE-agent (GBR-I),” the latest report says.

NZFSA Executive Director Dr Andrew McKenzie said he was pleased with the result.

“There are a lot of people working extremely hard within NZFSA, MAF and other agencies to ensure that New Zealand retains its BSE-free status and its thanks to their hard work that we keep that status. The importance to our meet export industry of maintaining this Category 1 status is immense,” Dr McKenzie said.

The report says that as long as no “external challenges” occur, the GBR status will remain low. It says while BSE infectivity, if imported, could have reached domestic cattle, very few cattle and no meat and bonemeal have been imported to New Zealand from BSE risk countries.

Dr McKenzie said he was confident that the systems in place now to keep BSE out of New Zealand were of a very high standard and would allow New Zealand to retain its Category 1 status.

“Our surveillance for BSE has been increased and government agencies and industry are constantly reviewing and improving the measures we have in place to ensure they are of the highest standard. This favourable report from the EU endorses the work being done here.”


Ends

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