- The government is launching a nationwide
survey into milk quality following fears that it could be carrying a bacteria
linked to Crohn's Disease.
- Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture,
Fisheries and Food (MAFF) will spend 18 months investigating at least 1,000
samples of all types of milk for the bacteria mycobacterium paratuberculosis.
- The bacteria causes Johne's disease,
a disorder in cattle across the world.
- But it is one of several factors that
have been suggested as causing Crohn's disease, a chronic intestine inflammation
which can in some cases lead to tumours.
- There are around 80,000 sufferers of
Crohn's Disease in the UK. It leads to major inflamation in the small intestine.
Three quarters of sufferers eventually need surgery. The cause is still
- Previous research suggested that pasteurisation
should destroy the organism.
- But despite the review of milk safety,
prompted by a request from the government's own Advisory Committee for
the Microbiological Safety of Food, officials stressed there is no evidence
to suggest that people should stop drinking it.
- Unconfirmed scientific reports that the
bacteria could exist in a lesser form in milk after treatment had prompted
the extensive investigation, officials said.
- A spokesman for the MAFF said: "The
Advisory Committee has examined the issue on a number of occasions and
have advised that as yet there is no evidence of a public health problem.
- "But it would nevertheless be prudent
to conduct further research and to keep the evidence under review."
- The spokesman added that the ministry
had also asked the Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens to go back
over its last report into links between the organism and Crohn's disease.
- "Their previous conclusion was that
a link could neither be proved or disproved on the available evidence,"
- The MAFF has already launched one investigation
into the organism after reports that it could be transmitted from infected
animals to humans.
- BSE fears
- The announcement comes as the government
continues to deal with the aftermath of the beef ban after the cattle disease
BSE was linked to the human brain disease CJD.
- But Dr Norman Simmonds, a member of the
Advisory Committee for the Microbiological Safety of Food Safety, said
that the government was trying to inform people at the earliest stage to
avoid a rerun of the BSE debacle which led to UK beef being banned by the
- He said: "We are telling people
at the very earliest stage exactly what the position is.
- "We have an organism, we don't know
whether it causes disease or not.
- "We have found it survives in pasteurised
milk in a small number of samples."
- Dr Simmonds said that people should continue
- "It probably isn't very dangerous,
at best, it is not dangerous at all," he said.
- "The government is trying to be
honest with the consumer.
- "If (the risk) is concealed the
government will be accused of hiding (the facts)."