The Scottish Government confirmed that the first case of BSE in almost a decade was detected in Aberdeenshire, which prompted a precautionary movement ban being placed on the farm.
Although this is a different kettle of fish compared to the BSE epidemic during the 1980s and 1990s, there have been 16 cases of BSE over the past seven years in the UK. However, just this one case in Scotland has moved the UK’s northernmost country back from BSE-free to Controlled Risk status.
Following the detection, the Scottish meat industry has remained upbeat about its chances in the global meat market.
Quality Meat Scotland’s chair Kate Rowell anticipated that the case would not have any serious impact on export market growth.
“The reality is that sporadic cases, such as the one confirmed this week, do occur and have also been reported in other countries,” said Rowell. “The Scottish red meat industry has built a global reputation for the quality of its beef and we developed this with Controlled Risk (CR) status until 2017 when that changed to Negligible Risk (NR) status. Accordingly, we do not anticipate that the return to CR status, the same status as exists in England and Wales, will have any serious impact on export market growth.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesaler’s executive manager Martin Morgan echoed Rowell’s view on the global scale of trading, but admitted it was disappointing for the Scottish beef industry.
“The fact that both France and Ireland went through exactly the same return to CR status as we are facing today, also due to isolated BSE cases, means that we are not entering unchartered waters in terms of the European industry,” said Morgan.
Although this is only one case of BSE, could alarm bells be ringing for major international markets?
Earlier this year, the UK was given the green light to resume market access negotiations after China lifted the ban on British beef.
The move was welcomed across the country and signalled interest from other major international markets, such as Japan, to open discussions about importing UK beef.
Meanwhile, the US also revealed this week that it was aiming to forge a trade deal with the UK.
However, the European Commission told GlobalMeatNews that it would be closely following the ongoing investigations and had full confidence in the UK’s capacity to lead and conclude these satisfactorily.
“The UK informed the Commission about the confirmed classical bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), case in Scotland. Although we are at the very end of the epidemic, it is understandable that some sporadic cases of classical BSE are still detected,” said a European Commission for health and safety spokesperson.
“Thanks to the robustness of the EU's surveillance system, the strictest in the world, these very few residual cases are swiftly detected.”
GlobalMeatNews approached other international bodies such as the American Association of Meat Processors and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, but they declined to comment.
UK processors are remaining calm and collected, for now, but authorities will be making preparations to ensure there is no repeat of the scandal that occurred 30 years ago.