The AFSSA has been consulted on the five-point agreement of November 23 between the Commission, the British and French authorities, outlining the various measures designed to improve risk management. Its circumspect response is that risks linked to the marketing of British animals contaminated with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) remain extant but cannot be quantified at present. Likewise, the absence of certainty regarding all modes of transmission of the infectious agent between animals and the undetected incubation of the disease should be taken into account.Reversible measures?Speaking on December 5, France's Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany had hoped that the AFSSA's opinion would be sufficiently positive regarding these additional guarantees to open the way to the lifting of the embargo on British beef. Experts have, however, failed to reach a firm decision. They emphasise the need to provide for the reversing of any measures taken in order to immediately cease exposure of consumers to a risk confirmed at some later date. The principal points examined by AFSSA on the basis of the protocol agreement between the various parties were as follows.Cohort withdrawal measures.The AFSSA's group of thirty French experts on prion diseases, chaired by Dominique Dormont, examined the potential impact of measures for the withdrawal of cohorts (animals born in the same year) contemporary with clinically infected animals born after January 1, 1996, and the probability that animals incubating the disease might be exported. According to the principles of the date-based export scheme (DBES) no animal born after August 1, 1996 should be infected with BSE. The group of experts recognised that measures on cohorts are likely to reduce the risk in the longer term, but that such measures only apply after the detection of the first clinical case and cannot prevent the entry into the human food chain of products from livestock incubating the disease. Moreover, the experts felt that the effectiveness of measures applied to cohorts might be improved by specifying the definition of these cohorts (age and location) according to the epidemiological analysis of cases, should they occur. Finally, the group of experts on prion diseases emphasised that by definition, such measures will only have an impact on exposure to risk following the emergence of the first clinically recognised case in an animal born after August 1, 1996 (BSE has an estimated average...

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