Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Mutton Dressed as Lamb Could Be a Health Issue Says Viva!

Release date: 
Monday, June 19, 2006

Concerns are raised about human health consequences of a new form of scrapie found in sheep A new brain disease in sheep looks set to throw government advisors and consumers into a state of confusion yet again, claims the vegetarian campaign group Viva! . The potential risk to humans of a new form of scrapie, now affecting as many as 82,000 sheep in Britain, was discussed at a Food Standards Agency (FSA) board meeting in Bristol at the close of last week. The board examined what measures might be taken to protect consumers from the possible risks. A government advisory committee (SEAC) had previously reported that while there is no evidence to date that this disease can infect humans, a theoretical risk cannot be excluded. Viva! maintains that consumers are powerless to avoid the more risky older meat due to insufficient labelling, and the only certain way to avoid eating infected meat is to cut animal products from the diet entirely. Cattle, sheep and goats are known to suffer from a group of transmissible brain diseases known as TSEs (such as BSE in cattle and scrapie in sheep). However, a new form of scrapie, called "atypical scrapie', has emerged in Britain. In a paper written for the board meeting the FSA stated that: "Whilst the Agency is not advising anyone to stop eating sheep or goat meat or products, any possible risk could be reduced further by not eating meat from older animals. This is because if there were a risk it would be greater in older animals.' Meat from older sheep is called mutton but currently there is no legal definition of mutton and therefore no labelling requirement, except for pre-packed sausages. This means consumers cannot follow the official advice unless they avoid all processed meat products such as meat pies, pasties and curries. The FSA also advises that risk can be reduced by avoiding sausage casings made from sheep intestines which are more likely to carry the disease agent. Senior Viva! campaigner Justin Kerswell says: "After BSE/CJD, Sars and bird flu, how many more wake up calls do we need' Another year, another emerging animal disease " and potential risk to human health. Insufficient labelling means that many UK consumers are eating mutton without even realising it. However, the good news is that you can protect you and your family from any possible risk from this latest threat by simply going vegetarian.' For further information contact Justin Kerswell on 0117 944 1000. [ends]