Farm Ireland

Thursday 27 October 2016

Farmer at centre of BSE scare says he's hopeful tests prove negative

Louise Hogan and Sam Griffin

Published 12/06/2015 | 12:11

The farmer at the centre of the country's BSE scare has said he is still hopeful test results will show the cow that died on his farm was not infected with the disease.

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Speaking from his farm outside Louth village, Joseph McArdle said he did not wish to comment on the case until the tests are completed.

"I'm not commenting. There's nothing I can say," he said. 

"I can't comment until the test results come back and we know what it is. We don't know yet what it is. There's still a chance.”

Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, TD Photo credit; Damien Eagers
Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney, TD Photo credit; Damien Eagers

Meanwhile Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney said the investigators were making "good progress” in the probe into the cause of the suspected BSE case on the Louth dairy farm.

Mr Coveney said the latest potential case was a “hangover from a historical BSE problem” and was uncovered because of the comprehensive testing system in place in Ireland’s food chain.

He said all calves of the five-year-old rare breed dairy cow had been traced and would be destroyed.

“We’re already making good progress on that investigation and I’m already getting good feedback from it. When we have a complete picture. We’ll be open and we’ll be transparent about that,” he said, at the launch of the Agriculture Department’s animal welfare conference.

“The reason why we have a suspected BSE case in Ireland is because we have a very comprehensive system that tests and tests and tests to make sure that no animal can fall through the net.

"This is a hangover from a historical BSE problem, we will have the odd isolated case, there were no cases at all last year. We were hoping there would be no cases into the future but if there are any individual isolated cases we will find them and will investigate how that could have happened,” he said.

“We will reassure the many countries that import Irish beef that we have very robust, very safe and very transparent systems.”

Mr Coveney said it was important the latest case in the country’s €2.2bn food industry was put in context.

It comes just days after a key world animal health organisation declared that Ireland was effectively free of the disease that sparked a huge food scare in the 1990s. Just last week Ireland’s BSE status was changed from ‘controlled risk status’ to ‘negligible risk status’ after no cases of BSE were detected in 2014.

“We have developed a really good relationship with our counterparts in China, Japan and US, and lots of other countries,” he said, with 90pc of Ireland’s beef destined for more than 70 different countries,” he said.

“I would make the case and I’d still make the case, Irish beef is the safest and has the most transparent and robust testing systems anywhere in the world to ensure that we are providing a high quality premium product and that is the case today as it was last week.

“What is unfortunate about this is the body that actually certifies countries for BSE risk gave Ireland the all clear last year for the first time in 20 years.”

However, Bord Bia has emphasised Ireland will retain it’s ‘controlled risk status’ even if this case is confirmed.

“We might go back to having a controlled risk status but don’t forget that was the basis all the trade relationships we have now and in particular the ones we’ve developed in the last few years have happened,” he said.

“It just means unfortunately we go back to where we were at the start of last week which is unfortunate but not a disaster.”

The Taoiseach also commented on the suspected case of BSE, and stressed that the possible case of mad cow disease was discovered due to "the very rigorous assessments and standards that we have here in Ireland."

"This does not affect either the food chain, either the dairy end of it or the meat chain because that animal hadn't got into it, which is very reassuring," said Mr Kenny.

"As the assessment of the reasons for this animal being affected are analysed over the next week or so, the [Agriculture] Minister and the Department will keep all of our people here and also in other countries fully informed on this," he added.

Online Editors