British lab certifies rejected sheep disease-free
Manama, October 15, 2012
A shipment of thousands of sheep turned away from Bahrain at the end of August over fears they were contaminated has been certified as disease-free by a British laboratory.
Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune quotes a report by UK-based laboratory the Pirbright Institute, which said the sheep were fit for human consumption.
Bahrain has been in the midst of a fresh meat shortage after a shipment of almost 21,000 Australian sheep was turned away by the country's veterinary authorities.
The consignment was later delivered to Pakistan, where authorities ordered tests to determine whether the animals were safe.
Blood samples drawn from 102 random sheep were tested at the UK laboratory after the Sindh High Court ordered an immediate halt to the culling of the imported stock and an inquiry into whether the animals were diseased.
"The samples have tested negative for the presence of antibodies to bluetongue, PPR Virus and FMD virus," Dr Jef Hammond, the institute's head of vesicular disease reference laboratories, wrote in his report.
"The interpretation of results demonstrates that since no antibodies have been found, we can safely say that the sheep were not infected with any of the tested diseases.
"There is no reason to exclude them from being processed for human consumption on these grounds, subject to regular meat inspection processes."
However, a court case that focuses on whether the animals were imported into Karachi illegally by PK Livestock and Meat is still continuing.
The Sindh High Court on Friday adjourned the case until Wednesday, after the Pirbright Institute's report was presented to judges, according to The Express Tribune.
It says 7,667 sheep were culled before September 21, when the court ordered a stay amid concerns that the animals could be diseased.
Another 11,306 sheep are reported to be alive from the original stock of approximately 20,450 sheep, while others are either dead or missing.
PK Livestock and Meat has been accused of trying to conceal the fact that the sheep shipment had earlier been turned away by Bahraini authorities.
Pakistan's Ministry of National Food Security and Research found quarantine laws were violated when the consignment was cleared during the first week of September.
A 26-page assessment states the importer most likely concealed the fact that the consignment had already been rejected by veterinary authorities in Bahrain and cast doubt on the authenticity of a certificate of health reportedly issued by Australian veterinary authorities.
"The certificate of health, bearing No 612-000891, signed by the authorised Australian veterinary officer on September 1 at Perth - about 27 days after the ship had left Australia - seems to be fake and bogus," the report said.
It added a thorough examination and verification of documents, such as the health certificate and the commercial invoice, had not been carried out on the vessel.
Although the director of Pakistan's Animal Quarantine Department (AQD) inspected the sheep onboard the vessel, the report said the official was unauthorised to exercise the powers of quarantine officer and approve the sheep.
It added the sheep were kept at a farm not approved for use as an animal quarantine.
"The purpose of quarantine was defeated when the imported sheep were shifted to a slaughterhouse, where other animals were also kept for slaughtering purposes," it said.
An official at the Bahrain Livestock Company said last week that orders had been placed for more livestock imports to Bahrain, particularly with the Eid Al Adha festival - when thousands of sheep are traditionally slaughtered - now just over a week away. – TradeArabia News Service