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No change to New Zealand's BSE- free status

The discovery of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Canada in no way undermines New Zealand's BSE-free status, says Meat New Zealand trade and technical policy manager Ben O'Brien.

"While we extend our sympathies to our Canadian colleagues, we must re-emphasise that New Zealand's barriers against BSE are stronger than ever before. We have never had a reported case of BSE or chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer, and we are internationally recognised as being free of scrapie. As recently as this year European officials reconfirmed our position as a country in the lowest risk category," he said.

"New Zealand has very stringent measures in place to ensure that we maintain our BSE-free status, including a ban on the importing of all meat and bone meal from ruminant animals. In fact we have only ever imported meat and bone meal from Australia and that was way back in the fifties. MAF have also increased their testing regime and now test more than 2,000 brain samples per year for BSE, scrapie and CWD."

Meat New Zealand applauds the swift action taken by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority to stop all cattle, beef, sheep and goat imports from Canada until further notice.

Far more information on BSE exists now than in the past, O'Brien said. "Governments and consumers alike are now far better informed about the causes and effects of BSE than even just a few years ago and we have the utmost faith in the Canadian officials' ability to deal with the discovery."

The effect of the discovery on New Zealand's North American markets is still unclear, O'Brien said. "We expect that at least in the short-term beef prices will be driven down, but we will have a clearer picture of the impact on the markets in the days to come. The United States have banned imports from Canada, but how our beef exports to the US or Canada will be affected isn't evident at this time."

We also expect that this latest case will have a flow on effect on all international beef markets and particularly in some Asian countries where consumers are particularly wary of imported product. Meat New Zealand will be reinforcing in those markets New Zealand's premier status as a supplier of safe, wholesome and nutritious lean beef, O'Brien said

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