29 Oct 2009

Consumer perception at stake over new sheep's brain condition

11:38 am on 29 October 2009

Biosecurity New Zealand is not expecting trade repercussions to follow the discovery of a condition known as Nor 98 or atypical scrapie in a sheep's brain from this country, but it is worried about consumer perceptions.

It's the first time the relatively new condition, known as Nor 98 or atypical scrapie, has been found in an animal that was born and bred in New Zealand.

Ministry staff say the condition is quite different from the classical form of scrapie, a brain-wasting disease that infects sheep and goats, and doesn't alter this country's scrapie-free status.

The Food Safety Authority says neither form poses any risk to human health or the safety of eating meat or animal products, and there's no evidence that the atypical form can be transmitted naturally to other animals or people.

But Biosecurity NZ says problems could arise in overseas markets where English is not the predominant language.

Principal International Advisor Dr Stuart MacDiarmid says the word 'atypical' could be 'lost in translation' and people could focus on the second word.

He also foresees difficulties with the distinction between 'transmissible' and 'contagious'.