Food Law News - EU - 2000

16 May 2000: BSE - Animal diseases and public health: a better control system for TSE


EP Daily Notebook, 16 May 2000

Animal diseases and public health: a better control system for TSE

Dagmar ROTH-BEHRENDT (PES, D) for the Environment committee gave a broad welcome to Commission proposals laying down rules for the prevention and control of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). These seek to create a uniform legal basis for controlling and preventing TSEs of any kind in animals and animal products - particularly BSE and scrapie. She was, however, tabling a large number of amendments that seek, in particular, to improve consumer protection and to ensure Parliament's involvement in all fundamental decisions on TSE prevention. Other amendments would introduce the option of systematically using rapid diagnostic tests for improved detection of TSEs. She also wants entire herds to be removed from the food chain if necessary as a strategy for controlling BSE. In addition, Mrs Roth-Behrendt wants the "geographical area" concept to be clearly defined at EU level and not left to member states' discretion. She wants the proposal to include products such as cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and other medicinal products. Finally, she wants the requirements to keep the Commission informed of any suspicion or detection of TSEs to be further strengthened.

Reporting for the Agriculture committee, Reimer B÷GE (EPP/ED, D) was also not happy that the proposal did not meet the demand of Parliament that entire herds should be removed from the food chain when they were at risk, as an appropriate strategy for controlling BSE. He too wanted the "geographical area" concept to be clearly defined at EU level. He also believed that the proposal did not go far enough to respond to the problem of scrapie and that it needed to be tightened up.

For the EPP/ED, Antonios TRAKATELLIS (GR) welcomed the proposals of the two reporters and stressed the need to take drastic measures, including the destruction of all animals that posed a risk. Phillip WHITEHEAD (East Midlands, PES) agreed that safety must be a priority but argued that equality of precaution needed a variety of measures. He believed that the UK had indeed tackled the problem by taking out animals at risk. He did not believe that there was a need to introduce a policy of "whole herd" slaughter. He stressed that the UK was only exporting deboned carcasses and believed that derogations were needed for countries that already had a high level of control. Karl Erik OLSSON (ELDR, S) welcomed the report and stressed the need for uniform rules in this area. Bart STAES (Greens, EFA, B) too supported Mrs Roth-Behrendt's stance while stressing the Parliament should be involved more.

Liam HYLAND (Leinster, UEN) argued that it was essential to create a uniform legal basis in order to prevent the spread of TSE. He stressed that farmers were victims of circumstances beyond their control. Irish farmers depended heavily on beef exports , he said, and had left no stone unturned in their attempt to tackle the problem. Jean-Claude MARTINEZ (IND, F) expressed his anger that the British had sought profit at all cost and had therefore fed bonemeal to cows. BSE - which had been around since 1986 - had not disappeared from the UK and would not be doing so, he said. Indeed, there had been 53 fatal cases of SGD. "Sludge" was the subsequent reply of Jim NICHOLSON (Northern Ireland, EPP/ED) to Mr Martinez who believed that advantage should not be taken of others' problems.

Jean-Louis BERNI… (EDD, F) followed a similar line arguing that a theory of maximum profit had led to bonemeal being fed to herbivores. Senator Avril DOYLE (Leinster, EPP/ED) also believed that the principal of common rules could not be altered and that there needed to be a blue-print for this year.

Opposition to "whole herd slaughter" however came from a number of British members .Elspeth ATTWOOLL (ELDR, Scotland) believed that some measures had already proved effective in the UK and that these made the database export scheme unnecessary. Jeffrey TITFORD (Eastern, EDD) believed that adequate control already existed in the UK and the proposals on the table simply added more bureaucracy. It was not new laws that were necessary, he said, but more compliance. Robert GOODWILL (EPP/ED, Yorkshire and the Humber) believed that the Commission should be seeking to complement the member states' legislation. He believed that the UK already had comprehensive measures in place and that BSE cases were reducing. He did not believe that there was any scientific justification for whole herd destruction. Mr Nicholson argued that there was no scientific evidence to kill the whole herd and that good animals should not be slaughtered. He noted that there had only been three identifiable cases of BSE in 1999 and that this number could reduce further.

[Subsequently, On Wednesday 17 May, Parliament voted by 509 to 43 with 7 abstentions to endorse with amendments Commission proposals that lay down rules for the prevention and control of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). These proposals seek to create a uniform legal basis for controlling TSEs of any kind in animals and animal products].


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