Saturday, January 23, 2010

Thumbs up to suspect countries beef - Australian Health Department......

The Australian Health Department has given a thumbs-up to eating beef from countries with mad cow disease, claiming Australians are 40 million times more likely to die in a car crash than from the brain-wasting disease.
A Senate inquiry is investigating the federal government's plan to lift a nine-year ban on importing beef from countries afflicted by the deadly bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

The Department of Health and Ageing has told the inquiry the risk of Australians contracting the human version of BSE, the variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease, would be "very small, if not negligible" if Australia imported beef products from Britain, where 169 people have died after eating contaminated beef since the 1980s.

"The amount of BSE-infected material entering the human food chain in . . . the UK is now very small because of the decline in BSE, the removal of brain and other specified risk materials from carcasses, and the detection and destruction of infected animals," the department's submission states. "An estimate of the absolute risk to Australians from UK beef imports, if this was to be allowed, is found to be 40 million times less than the risk from road accidents."

John Mathews, an epidemiological scientist with 40 years' experience in the field who was commissioned by the Health Department to review the latest scientific findings on mad cow disease, has concluded that imports of beef products from BSE-affected countries would bring "a theoretical but negligible increase" in the risk of human cases.

"The absolute risk to the Australian population is likely to be negligible," Professor Mathews said.

But one of the senators carrying out the inquiry, Liberal Party farmer Bill Heffernan, yesterday accused the government of "going off half-cocked" with its plans to lift the beef import ban in March. He said Australia was one of the few countries in the world still free of mad-cow disease, and even a single case would damage its trading advantage.

"One of Australia's trade advantages in the global market is our clean, green and disease-free status," he said.

In my opinion this is a gamble, and a serious one at that. I don't think New Zealand would be prepared to take a gamble like that with such a dangerous disease. Very risky, Aussies. A mad risk, perhaps?

Acknowledgements: The Australian

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