Vet lab confirms Norway's first-ever BSE case

by Erica Shaffer
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NORD-TRØNDELAG, Norway – A veterinary laboratory in Great Britain confirmed Norway's first-ever case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the Norwegian Food Safety Authority (NFSA) reported.

The case was discovered during routine testing at a farm in Nord-Trøndelag, FSA said. The Veterinary Institute in Great Britain confirmed a test of a 15-year-old cow returned positive for BSE. The cow was destroyed and the NFSA restricted movement of animals to and from the farm. The agency launched an investigation into where the cow came from and other circumstances concerning the infected animal.

“Many will remember the outbreak in England in the 1990's, but this is on an entirely different scale,” said Solfrid Åmdal, head of the section for land animals and animal health staff for the NFSA. “We are handling this consistent with established procedures and have no reason to fear for the worst.”

However, the NFSA acknowledged possible consequences for exports of certain product categories and live animals from Norway. The agency said there are formulations the agency must review and possibly change; some formulations may need to be renegotiated with each country. However, Norway is considered by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the European Union to have a negligible risk of BSE. FSA said the confirmation of the country's first case of BSE shouldn't prompt any changes in the country's status.

“We have solid procedures in place to ensure that no infected material gets into our food,” said Kristina Landsverk, supervising director of the NFSA. “It is therefore not dangerous to eat beef or drink milk. The detection of atypical BSE has no bearing on food safety in Norway, and the recall of products or other types of measures in the marketplace are out of the question.

“We also have strict rules for the use of raw animal material in animal feed to prevent any infection through the feed. In addition, we have an extensive monitoring program, which in this case discovered the disease,” she added.

NFSA said the herd the infected cow came from is located in Nord-Trøndelag. Landsverk said EU regulations require member states to detect, kill and destroy animals that have been in proximity to the infected cow. This includes direct offspring of the cow or animals born in the same place within one year before or after the suspect cow was born. She added that cows in proximity to an infected cow are not considered infectious, but the regulations don't distinguish between classical BSE and atypical BSE. Animals that meet those criteria will not be used in food production or included in other commodity streams, Landsverk said.

In addition to restrictions placed on the herd, the NFSA also targeted other animals. The agency said two animals in Sør-Trøndelag, one in Nord-Trøndelag and one in Oppland will be killed and the carcasses destroyed.

“I fully understand that this is a difficult time for the farmer,” Landsverk said. “Of course it is a burden to find out that BSE has been detected in the herd. I would like to commend the farmer for being very constructive and cooperating well with us through this process.”
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