In a statement to parliament, junior health minister Brian Lenihan said that while the source of the infection could not be traced, since the incubation period was 10-20 years, “it is a strong possibility” that the man had eaten BSE-infected beef from Britain.
Beef products from the UK had been imported into the Republic until 1996, when the link between BSE and CJD was established, he said. “It is a matter of probability that the current case was contracted before these controls were brought in.” With Irish beef exports worth €1.9bn last year, both government and industry are keen to reassure international markets about Irish product. Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told parliament that the anti-BSE controls in place were the most stringent in the EU.
The Irish Food Safety Authority advised home consumers that they were not at any risk in eating beef.
Opposition members in parliament called for stricter labelling regulations, citing a survey that found South American beef being passed off as Irish in the Republic. Some also expressed concern over the continuing cases of BSE - 110 in the Republic so far this year - and at a consignment of contaminated cattle feed, imported from Germany, initially escaping detection.