Government awaits test results, if positive, 66 cows could be slaughtered

The suspected mad cow case in Minorca has more serious implications than initially feared - with investigators working on the theory that the nine-year-old cow had been bought from a German or Dutch farm. The Balearic government now suspects that the cow was born and reared in Minorca and could have contracted the disease when aged three from animal-based feed which was not banned until 1994. The Balearic Minister for Health, Aina Salom, revealed the government's latest fears after the first meeting of the mad cow commission yesterday morning. But she was quick to stress that the government's investigation is far from closed and that it is still too early, and it would be a mistake, to jump to any conclusions. However, if Salom is right, then the government have a much larger problem on their plate. If the cow did contract mad cow in Minorca, then it can only be assumed that other cows of the same age could have eaten the infected food stuffs and, if still alive, be carrying the disease. Government sources said yesterday that further cases have not been ruled out. But whatever the outcome of the inquiry, the government yesterday repeated that consumers are not under threat. Firstly the infected cow, currently being tested in Valencia, came from a dairy farm and was not destined for the food chain. “Consumers should be calm and the fact that the suspected case was detected shows that the controls are in operation and are effective,” Balearic Minister for Agriculture, Mateu Morro said. But the government is leaving nothing to chance and if the mad cow tests on the dead cow prove positive, then all 66 of the other cows on the farm in Santa Eulalia de Es Mercadal should be slaughtered, the director general for Health, Josep Pomar said. Pomar said that in accordance with strict European Union guidelines, all other cows on the farm will have to be culled. If a mass slaughter has to be carried out, the Balearic government intends to seek European Union and Central Governmment financial aid. Salom said after the four-hour meeting yesterday that both Madrid and Brussels have financial aid packages to help cover the costs of mass slaughters. Salom also said yesterday that this week, the first boat will set sail for the mainland carrying susceptible parts of cows from local abattoirs for incineration. The mad cow commission will also be meeting again to discuss the latest developments.

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