Thursday, July 10, 2003

CJD rule changes: some sense at last?

The Food Standards Agency announced on Monday that the ban on the sale of cattle over 30 months old for human consumption would be ended. The slaughtering scheme was introduced to prevent the possible spread of BSE to humans as variant-CJD. However, cases of BSE have been declining and the FSA's research suggests that the increased risk due to ending the scheme would be no more than 2.5 lives lost in the next 30 years. Instead, cattle will be tested for BSE. The slaughtering scheme has cost 3 billion since 1996.

At last, signs of common sense in relation to BSE. Despite suggestions of a link between beef and vCJD, there have been only around 100 cases in the UK, much lower than the number of cattle who had BSE. At least one long-standing vegetarian managed to develop the illness, suggesting a long incubation period or another cause entirely. If there is a link between beef and vCJD, it is a very weak one, where other factors come into play to allow vCJD to develop.

However, BSE and CJD is a vivid example of how to overreact to a problem. The risk of vCJD was always small, yet a lot of people have been put out of business, and a lot of government money wasted, in the attempt to deal with it.

BSE 'old meat' ban may end, BBC News, 7 July 2003

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