Poland reports case of mad cow disease

EU inspectors visit the country to check meat exports from sick cattle

An atypical case of “mad cow disease” was discovered in isolated farm in south-western Poland.

An atypical case of BSE, commonly dubbed “mad cow disease”, has been discovered in Poland, the country's chief veterinarian said on Monday. But in his words, the case is isolated and does not pose a risk to human health. “A case of the atypical form of BSE in Poland has been confirmed,” Krzysztof Niemczuk said, quoted by the Polish PAP news agency.

The cow found to be carrying BSE in the village of Mirsk in south-western Poland, an area bordering the Czech Republic and Germany, was put down, Niemczuk pointed out. The atypical strain of the disease was uncovered on 24 January during a routine screening, the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) said in a separate statement. “According to the OIE, BSE in its atypical form, as discovered in Poland, does not affect the status of Poland as a country with negligible BSE risk,” Niemczuk added.

The news comes few days after reports that sick cows were illegally slaughtered in a Polish farm and their meat was exported to more than a dozen countries caused a stir across Europe. Last Monday EU investigators began a weeklong visit to Poland in order to check the reports. The inspection was announced last Friday by the Commission.

Poland is a major exporter of beef and the revelation has sparked concerns across Europe, particularly since some of the suspect beef was distributed to restaurants and schools. The investigation follows an investigative report by private broadcaster TVN, which showed undercover video documenting that diseased cows were being killed at night at a slaughterhouse in the northeastern Polish town of Ostrow Mazowiecka. Niemczuk confirmed that the plant was involved in “illegal activities, as slaughter was carried out deliberately at night, in order to avoid official supervision.” A veterinarian was not present as well.

According to a Commission spokesperson, Poland reported the problem on 29 January to the EU's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, which is used to quickly track down unsafe food and remove it from the market. Niemczuk confirmed that more than 2,500 kilograms of the diseased meat was exported to several countries.

So far Poland has identified 9.5 tonnes of beef from the slaughterhouse, which is already closed down. The Commission pointed out that withdrawal and destruction of the meat is ongoing. Besides Poland, it named the affected countries as Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Germany and Slovakia.

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