Ireland's risk status for BSE has been reclassified to "controlled" following the recent discovery of an infected animal in Co Louth.
The change, which had been expected, comes only weeks after Ireland had been granted a “negligible risk status” for the disease, the lowest possible designation.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) confirmed to The Irish Times that following the detection of a new case, Ireland would now revert to its previous "controlled" status.
“In response to the information provided by the Irish authorities, the [OIE’S]Scientific Commission for Animal Diseases conducted a review and reclassified Ireland from negligible status – as accorded at the general session, in May, in advance of the detection of the new case – to controlled risk status, its previous designation,” a spokesman said.
The organisation said it had notified the Department of Agriculture here of the change in status in June.
The department’s investigation into the Co Louth case, the State’s first in more than two years, concluded the affected animal, a five-year-old dairy cow, had contracted classic or typical BSE.
This strain normally occurs in animals that have consumed contaminated feed or in the progeny of animals that have contracted the disease.
The department’s investigation ruled out the “vertical transmission” explanation after tests on the cow’s mother and grandmother proved negative. Tests on feed used at the farm were also found not to contain meat and bone meal, which has been banned in the Republic since 1990, resulting in the classification of the latest case as sporadic and unexplained, which is not an uncommon finding.
However, because it can take four to six years for cattle to show signs of BSE, it may take some time for the State to reclaim a negligible-risk status for BSE.
The case represents a setback for the beef industry in Ireland, which had only regained access to the lucrative US, Chinese and Japanese markets for the first time since the infamous BSE crisis of the 1990s.
However, given its apparent once-off nature and the relatively swift detection protocols, the new case is not expected to damage the State’s €2 billion beef trade.
In addition, the recent agreements with the US, China and Japan were signed when the State had a controlled-risk status.
Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney is expected to lead a delegation to China later this year to mark the formal reopening of the market to Irish producers.