DUBLIN – Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) announced that final test results confirm a recently suspected case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was an isolated case of “classical” BSE in a single animal. DAFM said it identified all animals potentially exposed to the BSE agent and destroyed them, excluding them from the food and feed chains.

“The investigation has not identified anything to distinguish this case from the other cases of classical BSE that have been seen in Ireland or elsewhere,” the DAFM said in a statement. “The identification of classical BSE cases after the implementation of the ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal is not unprecedented. A diminishing number of such cases have been identified in Ireland and in other countries over the years.”

The BSE case comes nearly six months after the United States dropped a 15-year-old ban on beef produced in the European Union.

Ireland was recently awarded “negligible risk status” from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). But the DAFM said the confirmation of a classical BSE case in a domestic animal that is less than 11 years old means Ireland no longer meets the parameters in the OIE code necessary for a country to be recognized as having a negligible risk for BSE.

“It is expected that the OIE will reassign ‘controlled risk’ status to Ireland, recognizing the robust control systems in place which identified this once-off case and which will continue to underpin the safe trade in products from Ireland,” The DAFM said. “The control system that has brought BSE under control is still in place to protect human and animal health and is deemed to be effective by the OIE.”

On June 9, DAFM identified a positive result in a rapid screening test carried out by a DAFM approved and accredited private laboratory. The animal in question had been sampled by DAFM staff at a rendering facility on June 8, as part of required sampling of all fallen (died on farm) animals of 48 months and older. The sampling is one preventative step in Irelsand’s comprehensive control program.

The sample material and the brain were forwarded to the National Reference Laboratory where samples were tested to confirm initial results. In addition the samples were subject to a two-blot protocol for the classification of BSE isolates. On June 10, results indicated an identical molecular pattern indicating classical BSE. In accordance with NRL protocols, samples from the animal were then sent forward for histopathology and immunohistochemistry on the medulla of the brain. These are OIE confirmatory testing methods for BSE. In addition, samples were also forwarded to the EU Reference Laboratory in Weybridge, UK. Final confirmatory test results were received from both laboratories on June 25, confirming the case to be classical BSE.