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Brussels, 14 November 2002

Cow tongues, vultures and geographical BSE risk on Scientific Steering Committee agenda

At its meeting of 7-8 November, the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) advising the European Commission on scientific matters, examined the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) risk of bovine head tissue, concluding that further examination of the slaughter practices are necessary. The SSC further confirmed the safe status of New Zealand with regard to its geographical BSE risk (GBR). The opinion of the Spanish Scientific Committee on carrion birds as potential transmitters of BSE was evaluated and it was determined that the risks are negligible. The SSC adopted a protocol to evaluate tests on tissues of sheep and goats and developed a pre-emptive provisional model for assessing the geographical BSE risk in sheep, although the Committee sees no risk of BSE in sheep.

BSE risks of bovine head tissues

The SSC examined the most recent data on safety with regard to BSE risks of bovine head tissues and cattle cheeks. It sees a need that the slaughter process for removing the tongue and for harvesting the cheek meat should be examined to avoid any possible contamination.

Geographical BSE Risk

The SSC adopted the opinion that New Zealand continues to be considered as a "GBR I" country, meaning that presence of one or more cattle clinically or pre-clinically infected with the BSE agent is highly unlikely. Geographical BSE Risk (GBR) is a qualitative indicator of the likelihood of BSE-infected cattle being present in a country at a given point in time. Where such a presence is confirmed, the GBR gives an indication of the level of infection. The GBR level ranges from level I (highly unlikely presence) to level IV (confirmed presence, at a higher level).

Carrion birds as potential BSE transmitters

At the request of Commission Services, the SSC evaluated the opinion of 9 October 2001 of the Spanish Scientific Committee on TSEs in relation to necrophagous birds (carrion birds) being possible transmitters of BSE. It was concluded that the risks are low and strict measures in the wild need not be implemented, although feeding of wild species should not be introduced as a way of disposing of risk materials. These conclusions are consistent with the opinion of 9 October 2001 and the main conclusions of the Spanish Multidisciplinary Scientific Committee for Research into Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE).

Rapid post mortem tests to detect TSEs in sheep and goats

The SSC adopted a protocol to evaluate already approved rapid post mortem tests and tests currently under evaluation on tissues of small ruminants (sheep and goats). Due to some necessary editorial amendments, this opinion will be published in the beginning of next week on the internet.

Pre-emptive assessment of geographical BSE risk in sheep and goats

The SSC developed a provisional model for assessing the geographical BSE risk in sheep. This opinion is pre-emptive as BSE has not been identified in a diseased sheep or goat under field conditions and the Committee is not currently concerned about the possibility of BSE in sheep or goats. The SSC stresses that the model will need adjustments as new scientific data becomes available.

Further information

The opinions of the SSC are published on the Internet at the following location:

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