Case Study - Defra: Sheep or Cow?

Client: Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)
Sector: central government
Services delivered: providing assurance

Investigation into BSE testing

Remember the sheep that turned out to be cow? DEFRA commissioned Risk Solutions to find out at what point and why this might have happened.

We visited all of the organisations involved in the long series of experiments that began in the early 1990’s, audited files, interviewed staff and observed samples remaining in store. Poor labelling and control of storage meant that substitution of samples could have happened at a number of points.

We concluded that the most likely explanation was that the samples were exchanged with others from a similar set of experiments on cow brains - the samples used to explore whether BSE could be in the national sheep flock were almost certainly from cows!

Details of our investigation, and a parallel audit by the UK Accreditation Service (UKAS), are available on the DEFRA web site at