Louth BSE test results due on Thursday

Minister says ‘complete picture’ expected in case of Robunt cow found dead on dairy farm

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney has said he expects to be able to reveal test results from a suspected case of BSE in Co Louth on Thursday of this week.

Mr Coveney said he wanted to provide an update and a “more complete statement” on the situation.

“We’re waiting for confirmation tests to come back from abroad and we’re told that’ll probably be Thursday evening at this stage, and obviously our investigation is ongoing at the same time,” Mr Coveney said.

“So I think we’ll be able to give a pretty complete picture by then.”

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The Minister was speaking to reporters after attending the launch of a military archive at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines, Dublin on Tuesday evening.

The case centres on a five-year-old Robunt cow which was found dead on a dairy farm close to Louth village.

The animal was not presented for slaughter and did not enter the food chain.

If confirmed, it would be the first case of the disease in Ireland since 2013.

Confirmation of the case would impact Ireland’s risk status for the disease, which was recently upgraded to “negligible risk status” by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

This designation is only afforded to countries which are completely free of BSE.

EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan told The Irish Times on Tuesday: "As long as it remains an isolated case, I think the European Commission will be satisfied that the Irish authorities are dealing with it effectively and well."

“There will always be from time to time five or six isolated cases from the EU in relation to BSE and as long as it’s not any more than that, the Commission authorities are satisfied,” he said.

The case comes as producers here try to cement a foothold in the US following a near 16-year ban on European beef imports, and with the reopening of the Chinese market.

However, these deals are unlikely to be affected by an isolated case as they were forged prior to Ireland’s new “negligible risk status”.

A US department of agriculture spokesman said last week the development had “no trade implications”.

Department of Agriculture figures show 2014 was the first year in which the State has been totally free of BSE since the infamous outbreak in the 1990s.

Isolated cases of BSE are not uncommon, however, with department figures showing there was one confirmed case in 2013 and three the previous year.

Mr Coveney said previously the cow in Louth was most likely to have contracted the disease, if it proves to be the case, from contaminated feed.

Beef is the single biggest component of Ireland’s €10 billion food and drink export business.

Ireland exports about half a million tonnes of beef each year, 90 per cent of the State’s total beef output, worth about €2.2 billion, making it the fourth biggest beef exporter in the world.

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy

Eoin Burke-Kennedy is Economics Correspondent of The Irish Times

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan

Mary Minihan is Acting Features Editor of The Irish Times