A Safer Food Supply

Live animal testing for BSE and Scrapie

The global food safety standards for BSE and Scrapie have been critical to preventing mass infections of cattle and sheep flocks.

However because there was no effective live animal test for the diseases when the standards were implemented there are still significant gaps in protection.  The introduction of an effective live animal test for BSE and Scrapie will allow these regulatory gaps to be closed and improve our protection of our herds and our global food supplies.

The Danger of TSEs.

Animal borne TSEs are some of the most challenging diseases for food safety regulators.  BSE, first identified in the 1980s, has already shown to be transmittable to humans.  Scrapie and Chronic Wasting Disease in deer have not yet shown to be transmittable to humans, however researchers continue to monitor both diseases.

Gaps in protection.

When the Organization of World Animal Health first published BSE and Scrapie standards there was no live animal test available, only post-mortem.

While the standards have been effective, they also leave gaps in coverage.  There is no way for a nation to test imported live animals or to verify that animals for export are disease free.  The standards rely on self-reporting by herd owners, which have a strong economic incentive to be cautious in reporting clinically suspect animals – the animal has to be killed to be tested, and if the test is positive the herd owner may be forced to quarantine and even euthanize the rest of the herd.

Closing the regulatory gaps.

A live animal test will allow global and national food safety regulators to close the gaps in the currently regulatory approach to BSE and Scrapie containment.  Live animal testing for BSE and Scrapie will:

  • Enable a Test before Transfer regulatory approach for imports and exports. Herds coming into the country or being exported could be spot-checked for BSE or Scrapie, with any positives triggering testing of the whole herd.  Herd owners could even request testing for animals being transferred within a jurisdiction.
  • Reduce the pressure against self-reporting by herd owners
    • Allow herd owners to identify and test clinically suspect animals without having the animal euthanized
    • If an animal tests positive, allow the other animals in the herd to be tested and cleared instead of quarantined and euthanize