Intended for healthcare professionals


All clear soon for beef on the bone

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 05 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1548
  1. John Warden, parliamentary correspondent
  1. BMJ

    Risks from British beef on the bone were declared negligible this week by the government's Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), one year after it was banned asa possible source of human infection with new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (BMJ 1997;315:1560). Ministers are now consulting about lifting the statutory restriction on its sale.

    The committee estimates that next year only one or two carcases entering the food chain will present a risk from beef on the bone through infected dorsal root ganglia. The chairman, Sir John Pattison, said that the risk might even be zero.

    It was announced that the number of people who have died from new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (nvCJD) since 1995 has gone up by one, to 32.

    Mr Stephen Dorrell, the former health secretary, who in March 1996 announced a possible link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and nvCJD, admitted to the official BSE inquiry this week that the previous government's statements on the safety of beef sometimes lacked clarity. But he maintained that ministers had done their duty and were entitled to assume that the law on removing spinal and brain tissue at abattoirs was being enforced, though it emerged that contaminated meat continued to be sold until 1995.

    In another move, the government has accepted the advice of the SEAC and the Committee on Safety of Medicines that any human spleen used to manufacture Kveim skin test antigen in future should as a precautionary measure come from donors outside the United Kingdom and from countries considered at low risk from BSE.

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