Test results from suspected BSE case due later this week

If positive, it will be the first case of BSE in Ireland for two years

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney is expected to reveal the test results on a suspected case of BSE in Co Louth later this week.

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

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.


Confirmation of the case will 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 : "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.

“I understand the Minister for Agriculture will be getting the results back today and will be in a position to make a statement later on,” Mr Hogan said.

However, the department later said the results would not be revealed until later in the week.

“A full investigation is continuing including a full epidemiological examination in an effort to establish the potential cause of this case. Final results are expected towards the end of this week and Minister Coveney will provide an update at that juncture,” a department spokesman 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 re-opening 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