THE BBC’S recent documentary on BSE has left a bad taste in the mouth of the Scottish farming industry and failed to acknowledge the actions taken by the government and the farming sector to eradicate the disease and protect the public from future risk.

The BBC has has been accused by industry lobbyists of pursuing an ‘anti-farming agenda’ and ‘vilifying’ the farming industry, plus causing unnecessary damage to the red meat sector at a time where public support for the industry is much needed.

Executive manager of the Scottish Association of Meat wholesalers, Martin Morgan, said: “The BBC programme was disappointing in its lack of research or understanding of how BSE first entered the national herd and how the epidemic was addressed by government, as was examined in great detail by the Philips Inquiry, published in October, 2000.

“The programme, which did not reveal anything new concerning BSE or vCJD, also overlooked the actions taken by government and industry to eradicate this disease and the enormous efforts made to protect the public from future risk.

“From the first discovery of BSE, through to the present, SAMW has always worked closely with government officials and their scientists as well as the various food standards agencies to ensure the most rapid possible response is put in place to control and eradicate any animal disease, enabling us to say today that the beef handled by our members is absolutely safe for consumers.

“We continue to apply and observe all relevant European regulations and also comply with the Scottish Government and Food Standards Scotland’s strict protection measures to ensure there is no risk to human health or food safety,” he said.

NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCornick, added: “Since the 1990s, processes within the meat industry have been hugely improved. Sporadic cases of BSE are not unexpected, it was a known risk when Scotland applied for ‘Negligible Risk’ status. The detection of last year’s single case in Aberdeenshire demonstrated that the surveillance measures in place are effective.

“There are stringent measures in place at slaughterhouses to ensure deemed high-risk material, Specified Risk Material does not enter the food chain and is disposed of appropriately. Consumers should be confident of continuing to eat meat that is reared to the highest welfare standards that is free from SRMs.”

The Scottish Government was also quick to defend the red meat sector: “Scottish beef is produced to the highest standards and is renowned throughout the world for its quality. Since BSE became a notifiable disease in 1988, strict controls have been in place to both protect the food and feed chain, and to reassure consumers and international trading partners.

“Routine BSE surveillance on more than 20,000 cattle per year in Scotland is carried out, which included the case in Aberdeenshire in 2018. With only one case discovered in the last 10 years, Scotland and the UK are making excellent progress towards the complete eradication of BSE in cattle.”