MAP in the United Kingdom Flag


Food Industries and the Government in the United Kingdom are keenly aware of food safety issues, since the U.K. was unfortunate enough to be the host to the world's first and largest outbreak of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or "Mad Cow Disease". When conclusive evidence was discovered which proved that BSE was responsible for causing new variant Creutzfeld Jakob Disease (nv-CJD) in humans, markets for British beef, both at home and abroad, collapsed. Although those markets are now recovering, due to draconian and expensive BSE eradication programs, the British Beef industry is still struggling to get back on its feet.

What is the UK Government Doing About the MAP Problem? 

The lessons learned by the U.K. Government, Citizens, Media and Food Industries during the BSE crisis have not been forgotten. All parties now realize the desirability of exercising the precautionary principle, which emphasizes action to minimize risk. Mounting PR campaigns to assure the public that there is no food safety problem, while crossing your fingers behind your back, is simply not enough.

The pasteurization conditions mandated by law in the United Kingdom are that milk be heated to 71.7C for 15 seconds, a process known as HTST pasteurization, and which is identical to pasteurization conditions used in the United States and most countries of Europe and the developed world.

A survey of British cattle published in 1994 (Cetinkaya et al 1994) showed that 2% of British cattle were infected with MAP. A survey by the same investigators, conducted using genetic fingerprinting, and published in 1996 (Cetinkaya et al 1996) found that 3.5% of British cattle were infected.   

The UK Government is addressing the MAP problem more aggressively than any nation in the world.  The following summary highlights some of the most important actions that have taken place:



  • In 1998 the Food Safety Authority (FSAI) in Ireland took dramatic measures to remove MAP from the food chain by adopting measures:  (1) To ensure that animals diagnosed with Johne's disease must be removed from the food chain; and (2) From the time an animal is diagnosed with Johne's disease until it is culled, milk will not be used for humans or calves.

  • On June 19, 2000, the House of Lords in Great Britain convened in London to address the possibility that MAP may cause Crohn's disease.  In light of rapidly mounting scientific evidence, these discussions centered on the available scientific evidence.   You can read the transcript of these proceedings at -  House of Lords Debate.
  • In December of 2001 the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) adopted a strategy to prevent human exposure to MAP.   The ACMSF, which advises the UK Government Food Standards Agency, approved a comprehensive program of measures aimed at eliminating MAP from retail milk, as purchased by consumers.  As the ACMSF says in its strategy document, "The Agency has put to one side the question of whether or not there is a link between MAP and Crohn's disease.  The Agency believes that precautionary action to reduce human exposure to MAP should start now and should not be dependent on waiting for the link to be proven."   (You can read to the full text of these findings at:   "Report on Control of MAP in Milk.")
  • In June 2002 the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) adopted its "Draft Guidance On Control of Johne's Disease in Dairy Herds."  This draft is intended to offer advice to dairy farmers about the control of Johne's Disease in dairy cattle and is DEFRA's contribution to the implementation of the FSA strategy, with the long-term goal of reducing the prevalence of Johne's disease.   

DEFRA is responsible for UK milk production and marketing policy and also has responsibility for sponsorship of the dairy industry in the UK.  The Food Standards Agency and the Department of Health are responsible for milk hygiene and nutrition aspects of milk. 

"MAP in Milk" Studies in the UK

The UK has taken the lead in conducting studies relating to MAP in milk.  A summary of those studies follows:

  • 1996:  Live MAP has been cultured from retail milk supplies in England and Wales - Hermon-Taylor et al described the results of their search for MAP in milk purchased from retail outlets across England and Wales. They found that on average 7% of retail milk samples contained DNA from MAP, with up to 25% of retail milk samples testing positive during Fall and Winter. The finding of DNA does not prove that the bacteria were alive, since DNA is present in both dead and live bacteria. However, the finding does prove that a substantial proportion of milk submitted for pasteurization and eventual retail distribution in those countries is from cattle infected with BJD.   (Millar D, et al  Applied and Environmental Microbiology:1996 Sept:pages 3446-3452)
  • August 1998:  The UK Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) commissioned Dr. Irene Grant et al at the Department of Food Science, Queen's University Belfast to undertake a nationwide survey to investigate the microbiological quality of raw and pasteurized cows' milk.  Preliminary findings warranted a larger study.  (See below for details about that larger study.)

  • May 2002:  Proving that MAP survives pasteurization standards used in the UK, (the very same pasteurization standards used in the U.S.) Dr. Grant's team at Queen's University Belfast published their study entitled "Incidence of Mycobacterium paratuberculosis in Bulk Raw and Commercially Pasteurized Cows' Milk from Approved Dairy Processing Establishments in the United Kingdom."  (Grant, I.R.; Ball, H J.; Rowe, M.T.  Applied and Environmental Biology, May 2002, p. 2428-2435, Vol. 68. No. 5)

The results from the United Kingdom that MAP can be cultured from retail HTST pasteurized milk indicates that laboratory simulations do not reflect reality.  They are merely simulations. Only testing of retail products can definitively determine if live MAP are present in the retail food supply or not. 



"MAP in Water" Studies in the UK

The UK has taken the lead in conducting studies relating to MAP infection in water supplies.  At the present time there are two studies underway.   Sponsoring these studies are:

  • Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)  - Funded by Medical Research Council (MRC) and National Environment Research Council (NERC) - Research Conducted by Professor Roger Pickup (CEH, Windemere) and Professor John Hermon-Taylor (St. George's Hospital Medical School, London
  • Department of Food Science, Queen's University Belfast - Research Conducted by Whan LB, Grant IR, Ball HJ, Scott R., Rowe UT.   (Lett Appl Microbiol 2001 Sep;33[3]:227-31)

The research being conducted at Natural Environment Research Council's Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) by Professors Pickup and Hermon-Taylor, a five-year study, began in October, 2000.  Overall, there are three co-operative projects within the collabortive program of research.  They are evaluating whether runoff from cow pastures is contaminating drinking water supplies with MAP.   Quoting these researchers in an article printed in the IA Journal:  "...Taken together, the results of this new research, will permit the design and implementation of measures to ensure that our animals are MAP-free, that our water is safe, and perhaps through vaccine production, that the risk of Crohn's disease is eventually eliminated." 

The research  completed and published in September 2001 at the Department of Food Science, Queen's University Belfast relates to the bactericidal effect of chlorine on MAP in drinking water.   The study's aim was:  "To determine whether this organism [MAP] can survive standard water treatment processes."  Two strains of M. paratuberculosis were subjected to various chlorine concentrations. 

The conclusion:  "The data showed that when initial inoculum levels were high, neither M. paratuberculosis strain was completely killed at the free chlorine concentrations and contact times applied."  [underline added for emphasis]

Further, "This work highlights the need for further research into the survival of M. paratuberculosis during water treatment."  

PARA agrees that further research is necessary in light of this study which concludes that MAP survives standard water treatment processes! 

"Chronic Crohn's Campaign" (UK Patient Advocacy Group)

The "Chronic Crohn's Campaign" is a grassroots movement  reaching out to people in the UK who are alarmed by the uncontrolled spread of MAP in the environment, as well as the growing evidence linking it to Crohn's disease. 

Chronic Crohn's Campaign was founded by Mr. Tim Page, whose wife, Sarah, has suffered with Crohn's disease for 14 years.  Mr. Page's efforts have been tireless as he has lobbied various governmental agencies in the UK regarding this important issue.   We applaud their efforts and would strongly urge residents of the UK to contact the Chronic Crohn's Campaign to find out how to get involved with this organization.  Visit their website at:



Source:   Contact PARA:
Paratuberculosis Awareness & Research Association, 1999-2003.