The Standing Veterinary Committee accepted today measures announced by the United States of America to improve the monitoring programme to test for unauthorised substances and residue levels exceeding the Community maximum residue limits for authorised medicinal veterinary products in fresh meat and meat products.
As a result, no import ban on hormone-free beef nor on any other meat and meat product will therefore be imposed before 15 March 2000 and accordingly the implementation of the decision taken to this end has been deferred. The residue testing programme requires Member States and third countries to monitor live animals and animals products (Directive 96/23/EC) for substances having an anabolic effect, unauthorised substances as well as certain veterinary drugs and contaminants. A recent mission to the US by the European Food and Veterinary Inspection office (21.1 4.2.2000) concluded that the testing methods of the laboratories used still needed to be improved. In particular, tests for many of the substances to be controlled need to be validated. Since this will take some weeks to put in place for all susbtances, the US has given strong assurances that they will immediately take actions to rectify the current weakness of their system. The US will contract laboratory services which exercise suitable validated methods to carry out the residue testing until the designated laboratories of the US have upgraded their analytical methods.
David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection underlined the importance of ensuring full respect for the EU residue testing programme. Speaking during his visit in the US, he said: "Both sides are working towards a solution in a very constructive manner."
The report of the mission from 21.1.-4.2.2000 will be made available as soon as finalised.