HC Deb 28 January 2000 vol 343 cc384-5W
Mr. Yeo

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many bovine samples were sent from each country outside the United Kingdom to Weybridge Veterinary Laboratory since 1980; and what was the number of the samples from each country that were diagnosed with BSE in that period. [106323]

Mr. Nick Brown

[holding answer 24 January 2000]: The subject of the question relates to matters undertaken by the Veterinary Laboratories Agency. I have asked its Chief Executive, Mr. T. Little, to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter from T. W. A. Little to Mr. Tim Yeo, dated 28 January 2000: The Minister has asked me to respond to your question about bovine samples sent to the Veterinary Laboratories Agency, Weybridge since 1980 and the number of these samples diagnosed with BSE. The VLA has, over a considerable period of time, provided Reference Laboratory facilities for the diagnosis of certain animal diseases and in this general context will have received bovine brain samples from countries outside the UK for a wide range of diagnostic purposes. In the more specific context of the diagnosis of BSE, no bovine samples would have been received from other countries for this purpose before the recognition of the disease in Britain in 1986. Since 1986 such bovine samples, in the form of brain tissue for either histopathological or electron microscopic examination, have been received from a number of countries. The quantitative information requested could only be provided at disproportionate cost, as it is contained only in paper case records in different sections of the Pathology Department of the VLA. Such submissions have almost invariably been framed as requests from other countries for the diagnostic examination of material from their initial suspect cases of BSE. Because the VLA has provided training in the diagnosis of BSE for veterinary pathologists in many countries, requests for the examination of bovine samples of BSE have been confirmed at most to the initial few cases experienced in the country, with subsequent diagnosis being conducted by the countries own veterinary pathologists. Also, consultations on such material from other countries will not have been restricted to bovine samples sent to the VLA since opinions will have been sought from VLA veterinary pathologists and scientists whilst visiting other countries.