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New body to oversee tighter BSE controls

The authorities say stricter measures are needed to eradicate mad cow disease (file picture: Keystone)

(Keystone)

Switzerland is to set up a national agency to oversee the application of stricter measures intended to eradicate mad cow disease, or BSE.

The agency would start work next March, if the authorities approve new measures to fight the disease, which were proposed by the federal veterinary office earlier this month. The main measure involves extending a ban on feeding bone meal to cattle to all other farm animals.

The veterinary office said that retailers, farmers and butchers, who all took part in a one-day discussion of the issues on Friday, were unanimous about the need to extend the ban.

It was proposed on November 3, only days after two cases of BSE were reported in cows born after the ban on animal feed for cattle was introduced in 1996. The office said it hoped the measure would speed up the eradication of the disease in Switzerland.

Spokesman Hans Wyss said it would mean destroying 150,000 tonnes of animal waste annually, up from 30,000 tonnes a year since 1996.

The operation is expected to cost an extra SFr45 million ($25 million) per year, and Wyss said the government was willing to contribute.

The application of the new measures will be subject to much stricter controls, from the abattoir to the farm of origin. The responsibility for the controls will be handed to the new agency, which will operate at the national level.

The move follows an apparent resurgence of mad cow disease in Europe. The number of reported cases has increased this year in France, and over the past week, both Spain and Germany have announced their first-ever cases of BSE in domestic herds.

Although not conclusive, scientific and other evidence suggests there is a link between mad cow disease and a similar fatal illness in humans, Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).

swissinfo with agencies


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