Eight people were taken to a hospital Wednesday after a tanker carrying 22 tons of blood from cattle that were destroyed in an effort to eradicate mad cow disease spilled on a highway.

A tanker was on a highway near Birmingham in central England when it leaked, police said. Two of the highway's three lanes were closed while the blood was removed, causing long lines of traffic.Police Inspector Clive Isherwood said authorities believe the blood came from older cows that were destroyed as part of the government's campaign to eradicate bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. The blood was also to be destroyed.

"It is not known if the blood is infected with BSE, but we are taking all precautions necessary to ensure the safety of the public," Isherwood said.

Police said eight people who had been splashed with blood - four firefighters, two police officers, the tanker driver and his wife - were taken to Walsall Manor Hospital to be cleaned up.