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'BSE' fears may prompt sausage ban
Officials say lamb and mutton remains safe to eat
Some traditional English sausages could be banned under plans being considered to reduce any risk of the sheep form of BSE being passed to humans.

Scientists advising the Food Standards Agency have suggested that sheep intestines - used in 15% of sausages - should be removed from the food chain.

They have also called on baby food manufacturers to label the country of origin of products containing lamb so parents can avoid them if they wish.

We are not advising against the consumption of lamb and mutton

Sir John Krebs, Food Standards Agency
The scientists believe these measures will help to reduce still further the theoretical risk of humans contracting the disease by eating lamb, mutton or goats meat.

There is no evidence to suggest any risk and scientists said their proposals were merely precautionary.

The FSA will examine the recommendations at a meeting next month but officials said they still advised that eating this type of meat is safe.

However, its BSE and sheep stakeholders' group said banning the use of the sheep intestines - used in 15% of sausage casings - could significantly reduce any theoretical risk.

European action

It recommended that the ban should be imposed across the European Union.

It also urged the FSA to lobby the EU to introduce country of origin labelling for baby food and to draw up an international league table of member states at greatest risk of having infected sheep.

The group suggested the agency should inform Muslim and Afro-Caribbean people of the potential risk. These groups are the largest consumers of lamb, mutton and goat meat in the UK.

Similarly, it suggested that the agency should issue advice warning that if sheep BSE were present the risks would be reduced by eating lamb rather than mutton.

The group said its recommendations would allow the members of the public to "make their own informed choices".

However, Sir John Krebs, FSA chairman, said the report did not change official advice which was that lamb, mutton and goat remain safe to eat.

He said: "The board of the agency will examine this report very carefully in deciding what further measures are appropriate in dealing with the theoretical risk of BSE in sheep.

"We need to make proportionate choices in acting on what continues to be a precautionary basis. This report does not change the agency's advice, which remains that we are not advising against the consumption of lamb and mutton."

Precautionary advice

A spokesman for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said the report included only precautionary recommendations and did not suggest that action was needed.

He said: "FSA advice remains that lamb and mutton is safe to eat. We note this report with interest."

No sheep has so far tested positive for BSE in the UK. However, there is concern that the disease could be concealed by scrapie which affects thousands of sheep but does not enter the food chain.

Those fears are based, however, on experiments which have shown that it is possible to infect sheep with BSE by feeding or injecting them with brain tissue from infected cattle.

Sheep and cattle are known to have eaten feed that contained meat and bone meal - believed to have been the most likely cause of BSE in cattle - in the 1990s.




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23 May 02 | Europe
10 Jan 02 | UK
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