The Scottish Government confirmed the case had been detected on an Aberdeenshire beef farm

The first case of BSE to be detected in Scotland for 10 years has been confirmed at an unnamed beef farm in Aberdeenshire, the Scottish government has confirmed.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said the outbreak of so-called ‘mad cow disease’ was a “classical case” of BSE, which did not represent a threat to human health. He added it did not enter the human food chain.

However, a disease prevention response plan had been initiated at the unnamed beef farm, with precautionary movement restrictions put in place while further investigations to identify the origin of the disease continued.

“While it is important to stress this is standard procedure until we have a clear understanding of the disease’s origin, this is further proof our surveillance system for detecting this type of disease is working,” Ewing said.

“Be assured the Scottish government and its partners stand ready to respond to any further confirmed cases of the disease in Scotland.”

The owner of the herd, farmer Thomas Jackson, was “devastated” by the incident, said NFU Scotland.

It was too early to tell where the disease had originated from in this case, said Scotland’s chief vet Sheila Voas. But its detection was “proof our surveillance system is doing its job”, she stressed.

“We are working closely with the Animal & Plant Health Agency to answer this question, and in the meantime, I would urge any farmer who has concerns to immediately seek veterinary advice.”

‘Isolated’ incident

There is no indication any other cases have been detected across the UK, with a spokeswoman for Defra telling The Grocer the matter was currently being dealt with by the Scottish government.

“There are strict controls in place to protect consumers from the risk of BSE, including controls on animal feed, and removal of the parts of cattle most likely to carry BSE infectivity,” said Food Standards Scotland director of operations Ian McWatt.

“Consumers can be reassured these important protection measures remain in place and that FSS official vets and meat hygiene inspectors will continue to ensure that in respect of BSE controls. The safety of consumers remains a priority,” he added. “We will continue to work closely with the Scottish government, other agencies and industry.”

It comes as Quality Meat Scotland chair Kate Rowell urged the media to “report this single case responsibly and accurately to avoid any unjustified concern from the public”. She added sporadic cases of this kind “do occur and have also been reported in other countries”.

All animals over four years of age that die on farm are routinely tested for BSE under the Scottish government’s surveillance system. While the disease is not directly transmitted from animal to animal, its cohorts, including offspring, have been traced and isolated, and will be destroyed in line with EU requirements, it said.

More than 182,000 cases of BSE have been recorded in the UK since 1988, according to Defra data, with numbers peaking at the height of the BSE crisis in 1992, when 37,056 cases recorded in once year. However, just 28 cases have been reported since 2010, with the last known incident occuring in October 2015, when the disease was identified in a dead cow in Carmarthenshire, Wales.