Food Law News - EU - 2000

24 May 2000: HORMONES - Commission proposes revised legislation banning hormones as growth promoters

Commission Press Release (IP/00/519 ), 24 May 2000

Commission proposes revised legislation banning hormones as growth promoters

The European Commission has adopted today a proposal to amend its existing legislation (Council Directive 96/22/EC) on the prohibition of the use of hormones as growth promoters. The decision was made in the light of a recent opinion of the EU scientific advisory committee which, on the basis of the latest scientific information available, unanimously agreed to reiterate its opinion of April 1999 that the use of hormones as growth promoters in cattle poses a health risk to consumers. The Commission considers that the presentation of this proposal represents another step towards the implementation of the international obligations (Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS), Art. 51) of the Community whilst maintaining its chosen high level of health protection.

In 1998, the Commission asked the Scientific Committee of Veterinary measures relating to Public Health (SCVPH) to prepare an assessment of the risks to human health from hormone residues in meat and meat products. This move followed a WTO panel ruling in 1998 which found that the EU had not supplied sufficient elements to justify banning imports of meat and meat products from animals treated with six hormones.

The SCVPH concluded in April 99 that the use of six hormones (17 beta-oestradiol, progesterone, testosterone, zeranol, trenbolone and melengestrol acetate) used for growth promotion in cattle poses a risk to consumers, with different levels of conclusive evidence. There is a substantial body of evidence that the natural hormone 17 beta-oestradiol should be considered as a complete carcinogen exerting both tumour-initiating and tumour-promoting effects. The Commission agreed on the basis of the SCVPH opinion last year that it would not be appropriate to lift the existing ban on the use of growth-promoting hormones in meat production.

The Commission has repeatedly stated its commitment to a transparent scientific dialogue and the importance of basing its decisions on the most recent scientific advice. Therefore the SCVPH was asked to carry out a review of recently available scientific reports to establish if there were any elements which would lead to a revision of its April 1999 opinion. The review included in particular reports issued by the UK's Veterinary Products Committee subgroup (October 1999) and by the Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products of the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (December 1999). Relevant literature was also considered, including a recently published report by the FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The reconsideration of the previous opinion in light of these documents led the SCVPH to state again its concerns and to conclude that this recent information did not provide convincing data and arguments demanding revision of its opinion of April 99.

In light of the confirmation of the scientific opinion the Commission proposes to ban definitively the use of 17 oestradiol and its ester-like derivatives in farm animals both for growth promotion and therapeutic purposes and zootechnical treatment. The Commission also proposes to maintain the current prohibition on the five other hormones on a provisional basis (testosterone, progesterone, trenbolone acetate, zeranol and melengestrol acetate) while it seeks more complete scientific information.

These provisions will be kept under regular review. They will apply to Member States and imports from third countries alike. By these measures the Community will maintain its chosen high level of protection of public health. They are taken in full conformity with the Community's international obligations. The revision of the Directive will be decided by the European Parliament and the Council in co-decision procedure as soon as possible. The proposal foresees entry into force of the revised legislation by 1 July 2001 at the latest.

The full scientific report will be available on the Internet at the following address:

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