HC Deb 13 February 1990 vol 167 cc196-7W
Mr. Butler

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evidence is available to him that the causative agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy(a) is found in offal, other than brain tissue and (b) is not found in bovine tissue, other than offal.

Mr. Maclean

BSE was probably caused by the scrapie agent being transmitted to cattle through animal protein feed. Infectivity studies using various sheep tissues showed that the agent is most likely to be present in brain, spinal cord, spleen, tonsil, thymus and intestine, but not detectable in other tissues. These offals from bovines have therefore been banned from any use in human food as a precautionary measure, even though affected animals are slaughtered and destroyed. Infectivity experiments are being undertaken to confirm that the agent which causes bovine spongiform encephalopathy acts in the same way in terms of its presence or otherwise in relation to cattle offals and tissues.

Mr. Ron Davies

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on how many occasions more than 50 per cent. compensation has been paid in respect of bovine spongiform encephalopathy confirmed cattle identified at abattoirs.

Mr. Gummer

The compulsory slaughter of animals suspected of suffering from bovine spongiform encephalopathy was introduced on 8 August 1988. Under the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Compensation Order 1988, compensation is paid to the owner of an animal in which infection is confirmed at the rate of one half of its market value, up to 62½ per cent. of the average market price.

I propose to introduce from tomorrow new arrangements for the assessment of compensation for the slaughter of animals in which infection is confirmed. Compensation will be at 100 per cent. of the market value of the animal or the average market price, whichever is the less. There will be no change in the basis of compensation for animals in which the disease is not confirmed.

Mr. Matthew Taylor

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further action he intends to take in the light of the discovery that bovine spongiform encephalopathy can be transmitted to mice through feeding stuffs.

Mr. Maclean

The mice to which bovine spongiform encephalopathy was transmitted were fed large quantities (at least half their own body weight) of brain and cerebrospinal fluid from advanced clinical cases of BSE cattle. This was a laboratory experiment and the method of infection used was completely unnatural. The results were not unexpected and provide further evidence that BSE is similar to scrapie, a disease for which there is no evidence whatsoever of its being a risk to human health. Further action in the light of these results is not therefore appropriate.

Mr. Butler

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make it his policy to ensure that bovine spongiform encephalopathy-infected tissues are prevented from entering the food chain of any other animals either in this country or abroad.

Mr. Maclean

All cattle suspected of having BSE are compulsorily slaughtered and their carcases destroyed. In addition the offals which might harbour the agent in cattle with sub-clinical infection are banned from human consumption. Protein material, including these offals, derived from ruminant animals, cannot be fed to ruminants in this country. However, there is no scientific reason why the offals should not be incorporated into feedstuffs for non-ruminant animals. It is up to countries importing protein material from the United Kingdom to determine the conditions under which such imports may take place in the full knowledge they have about the disease and its likely cause.