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Disease report hits OTMS hopes
Source: FWi 21 May 2004

By Farmers Weekly staff

A NEW REPORT has suggested that between 1,300 and 3,800 people may be infected with the brain disease vCJD.

Scientists from Derriford Hospital, Plymouth made the estimates after examining 12,674 appendix and tonsils from people in the highest risk group, mostly in their twenties.

But the report's authors have stressed caution in interpreting the results.

Because the samples were fixed in paraffin wax, the team was unable to use a definitive vCJD test meaning the survey lacks statistical accuracy.

Scientists are also unsure as to how many people will go on to develop the disease and how many will act as carriers.

But the findings do raise concerns as to whether the Department of Health will lift its ban on Over Thirty Month beef entering the food chain.

Sir Donald Curry has called for the government to put in place a clear timetable for dismantling the over-thirty-months scheme.

He called the DoH's delays "procrastination" and "unhelpful," in his address to the British Meat Processors' Association's annual conference in London last week (w/e May 14).

Sir Donald's comments follow the European Food Safety Authority's decision to award the UK moderate-risk BSE status.

Sir Donald said: "The over-thirty-months scheme needs to be demolished as soon as possible. The procrastination of the Department of Health has been most unhelpful."

Dr John Bell, chief executive of the Food Standards Agency, told delegates his agency's approach to OTMS review had been based on extensive risk-assessment evidence.

"Last year we recommended a move away from the OTMS to testing, but we still await a decision [from the DoH]."