BSE case causes suspension of Irish beef exports to China
10 November 2023
Following the detection of a case of atypical BSE in a cow during recent routine Department of Agriculture tests, beef exports from Ireland to the Chinese market have been suspended.
The Irish Times reports that department veterinary officials discovered the new case of atypical BSE, more commonly known as mad cow disease, when carrying out tests on a cow last Friday.
The move comes as a “blow” to the agricultural industry, as China is a market with major potential growth.
Previously, beef exports to China were halted for two and a half years, when a similar case of atypical BSE was discovered in May 2020. The access of Irish beef into the country was only allowed to resume from the start of this year, after lengthy negotiations took place between Irish and Chinese authorities.
The previous suspension of exports had also followed a case of atypical BSE. This is a rare form of the disease that occurs in older cattle populations at a very low rate.
The latest case of BSE was discovered in a cow that was 10-and-a-half-years old.
A department spokesman confirmed the case “was identified during the department’s on-going systematic surveillance of ‘fallen’ animals at ‘knackeries’”.
Chinese authorities were notified of the case under a voluntary protocol in operation since 2018, when Irish producers were first granted access to the large market.
Senior government sources have said it is hoped that Irish access to the Chinese market will be restored sooner than it was following the 2020 closure.
Coalition figures highlighted that the current case was linked to a random mutation, unlike presentations of the disease which caused a major crisis in the 1990s.
Cases of atypical BSE differ from what is known as classical BSE; the latter being related to the consumption of contaminated feed by cattle.
Department officials said there is no threat to public health in Ireland due to the new case, and also noted that the animal did not enter the food chain.