Public confident BSE is not a high-risk threat

Two weeks ago the second incidence of BSE in a month was confirmed in the Czech Republic, this time in a seven year-old cow on a farm outside of Prague. Twenty-five animals were immediately put down, and beef deliveries from the farm were temporarily stopped as a precautionary measure, with authorities from the State Veterinary Office confirming that while they were taking the situation seriously, there was no cause for consumer alarm. Jan Velinger brought this report.

The sizzle has by no means not gone out of Czech beef - that despite the fact that two new cases of BSE, or mad cow disease, were confirmed in Czech cattle earlier this month. The State Veterinary Office took immediate steps in monitoring the situation and had the infected animal put down, along with twenty-five other specimens as a precautionary measure. Meanwhile, there has been no indication in a drop of in beef sales, consumer confidence remains high.

"Well, I think there is no reason to be afraid at this time."

"I think they make too much problem of it."

Do you eat beef yourself?

"Uh, yes I do. But I don't buy it on the street."

"I ate so much beef that I don't even think of it."

"I trust our veterinarians won't let any bad meat get through, and anyhow, there are too few cases of BSE for me to really be afraid."

Only four animals out of 250, 000 have tested positive since 2001, and tighter restrictions and regulations regarding meat inspections testing as well as overall animal breeding, cattle-feed, and the sale and import of meat products, make it unlikely an unsafe piece of Czech beef could make it to the dinner table. Josef Duben of the Czech Veterinary Office:

"We have always informed consumers that they could be confident in the quality of our veterinary checks. All the meat that makes it to shopkeepers' shelves has been tested. All cows thirty months or older are tested for BSE, younger specimens are not, in keeping with EU regulations. No infected product should be able to make it onto the shelves."

Josef Duben believes that while it is important to take the BSE threat seriously it is not a high risk situation. He indicates that the cows that tested positive in the Czech Republic were born in the years 1995 - 1997, which he believes were part of a wider trend throughout Europe when a wider range of animals on the continent were infected because they were all fed infected bone-meal from Britain, available on the European market at that time. Because regulations were tightened since then, Mr Duben says it seems unlikely too many new cases of mad cow disease should appear in the Czech Republic, although obviously they can not be completely ruled out. Finally, Mr Duben stresses that even though four cases of BSE have been confirmed in cows in the Czech Republic, there has never been a confirmed case of the related and fatal human illness known as Creuzfeld-Jacobs. He makes the interesting point that the cases that appeared in Britain where humans developed the disease probably had to do with a difference in the national menu:

"The link between Creuzfeld-Jacobs and BSE was basically proven in Great Britain, were many young people fell ill, I think about a hundred, and this is in line with local eating habits: the British like, or used to like eating cow brains, and differently prepared nerve tissue than here in the Czech Republic. We found no such cases here."