Poland reports atypical case of ‘mad cow disease’

Krzysztof Niemczuk, Poland's chief veterinarian. [Kurierlubelski.pl]

An atypical case of BSE — commonly dubbed “mad cow disease” — has been discovered in Poland, though the isolated case posed no risk to human health, Poland’s chief veterinarian said on Monday (4 February).

“A case of the atypical form of BSE in Poland has been confirmed,” Krzysztof Niemczuk said, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.

“According to the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE), BSE in its atypical form, as discovered in Poland, does not affect the status of Poland as a country with negligible BSE risk,” he added.

The cow found to be carrying BSE in the village of Mirsk in south-western Poland, an area bordering the Czech Republic and Germany, was put down, Niemczuk said.

The atypical strain of the disease was uncovered on 24 January during a routine screening, the OIE said in a separate statement.

It added that atypical BSE “appears spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low frequency” and as such “has no impact on the official BSE risk assessment in Poland.”

The discovery of BSE in British cows prompted the European Union to order a worldwide embargo on British beef and its derivatives in 1996 after it was learned that it can be transmitted to humans in the form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which can be deadly.

The embargo in Europe was lifted in 1999.

In a separate case, EU experts arrived in Poland on Monday to probe a suspect beef scare that saw a Polish slaughterhouse allegedly evade controls to butcher lame cows and export the meat to some 13 other European Union members.

European Commission spokeswoman Anca Paduraru confirmed that the team had arrived in Poland, telling reporters that “the report will be ready in about a month.”

The beef scandal erupted late last month after the TVN24 commercial news channel aired footage of apparently sick or lame cows being butchered at a small slaughterhouse in northeast Poland.

The TV report said dealers bought lame or sick cattle at much lower prices than healthy animals.

A journalist working undercover at the abattoir used a hidden camera to film the secret late night slaughter when veterinary authorities were unlikely to visit.

Poland immediately shut down the abattoir in Kalinowo, a village some 100 kilometres (60 miles) northeast of Warsaw.

Niemczuk said that an appraisal of the meat revealed that it does not pose a health risk.

He added that Poland had learnt the meat had been exported to two other countries — Greece and Slovenia — in addition to those already known.

A total of 2.7 tonnes of the suspect beef was exported to them plus the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania.

Poland admits exporting suspect beef to ten EU countries

The European Commission will send a team of inspectors to Poland on Monday after a TV report showed sick cows being butchered for food in a Polish slaughterhouse.

Poland is a leading producer and exporter of meat in Europe. The country produces around 600,000 tonnes of beef per year and exports the majority of it, mainly to the European Union, according to meat producer associations.

The scare recalls a 2013 scandal in which horsemeat was passed off as beef and used in ready-to-eat meals sold across Europe.

EU debates tighter food labelling rules after horsemeat scandal

EU ministers in charge of agriculture and food safety are meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (13 February) to consider the wider implications of the recent discovery of horsemeat in beef products.

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