Consumer risk from livestock virus unlikely

Posted: 27 February 2012 | Food Standards Agency (FSA) | No comments yet

The FSA is advising the public that there is unlikely to be any risk to consumers through the food chain…

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The Food Standards Agency is advising the public that, based on current evidence, there is unlikely to be any risk to consumers through the food chain from the virus that is causing abnormalities in livestock.

No illness has been reported to date in humans exposed to animals infected with the Schmallenberg virus, which is thought to be carried by midges. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) have stated the virus is unlikely to cause disease in humans.

Defra is actively monitoring the situation and the FSA is in contact with both Defra and the HPA to keep the issue under review.

Consumers should continue to follow the normal food hygiene precautions when handling, preparing and cooking all foods to reduce the risk of illness from harmful microorganisms. More information on food hygiene can be found on NHS Choices at the link below.

Further information on Schmallenberg virus can be found on the Defra, ECDC and HPA websites.

The science behind the story

Named after the small German town where it was first detected last summer, the disease is thought to have been brought to Britain by midges from affected areas in Europe.

The first UK cases in lambs were confirmed, in January 2012, by the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency. A small number of cases in calves have also been reported in the UK. The virus can cause stillbirths and foetal abnormalities in newborn lambs, cows and goats. The viruses most closely related to this new virus are transmitted between animals by midges. They have not been shown to be transmissible to humans.

As this is a new virus there are still many unknowns, and surveillance and investigations are ongoing in the UK and in other European countries.

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