Tue, 19 Dec 2000

Mad cow disease not a threat: Officials

JAKARTA (JP): Officials on Monday played down the possibility of mad cow disease entering the country, saying that all beef from Ireland has passed quarantine tests and are all shipped as frozen meat.

Besides, they said, out of Jakarta's daily consumption of 133 tons of imported beef, only seven tons, or about 5 percent, is shipped from Ireland.

President of the city-owned meat distributor PD Dharma Jaya, Prabowo Soenirman, said that most of the imported beef sold in the markets here are from neighboring countries of Australia and New Zealand which usually arrive much faster.

"Jakartans, therefore, should not worry because we have inspected the meat whilst in quarantine and we have a team of doctors to recheck everything before we distribute the meat," Prabowo said.

Judging from the amount of total meat shipped from overseas, "the meat from Ireland constitutes less than 10 percent."

"So it won't be a problem at all," he remarked, adding that European beef exported to the capital originates only from Ireland.

The official comment came amidst a growing fear of mad cow disease from European beef.

Over the past few weeks, there have been several cases of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopaty, discovered in Europe.

Chief of the City Husbandry Agency, Edy Setiarto, echoed Prabowo's statement, saying that the disease is only found in innards and the brain of the cow, while Jakarta only purchases the meat.

"We never import brain or innards, only meat. Besides, most Indonesians do not consume meat as much as foreigners, so it won't do any harm to local people," he said.

He said Jakarta authorities have no adequate reasons to halt the import of beef from Ireland at the moment. The capital, instead, badly needs extra beef to meet the soaring demand for the coming holidays.

AP reported on Monday that there was a second case of the disease confirmed in Germany, and German officials were investigating animals from other herds in the state of southern Bavaria with positive results so far.

The country immediately slaughtered the entire herd of 80 cows and their brains have been examined for further signs of the disease. The first confirmed case of the disease in Germany was discovered last month.

The European Union has sought a temporary ban on the use of meat and bonemeal in feed for livestock destined for human consumption.

According to Edy, each of the 8.3 million Jakartans consumed an average of 15 kilograms of meat per year, or about 41 grams per year.

Consuming beef in such small amounts, he said, would not cause sickness at all to people. (dja)