UN agency calls for strict enforcement of controls against madcow disease

“When it comes to prevention, the situation is still confused,” the Rome-based agency said. “To reassure consumers will require more than the minimum action to be taken by countries. It will require better controls and more surveillance and testing.” The disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, has been linked to the fatal human variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. FAO urged governments and the industry to carry out a proper danger assessment and to keep risk animals and materials out of the food chain. It also called for such precautionary measures as a ban on feeding meat-and-bone-meal to farm animals and a strict avoidance of cross contamination in feed mills. Other measures involved destroying specified risk materials such as the brain and spinal cord from cattle over 30 months old and ensuring safe practices in the rendering industry. In addition, the agency recommended active surveillance measures for accurate identification of animals as well as traceability throughout production, processing and marketing. If mad-cow disease is known to be present and control measures have not yet been strictly applied, a wider testing programme would be needed, FAO said, recommending testing all slaughter cattle over 30 months to enhance consumer confidence. To help promote stricter controls, FAO is carrying out training projects in several countries and facilitating cooperation between Switzerland, which has successfully dealt with the mad-cow crisis, and countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and Latin America.

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