Food Law News - EU - 2000

MAFF Press Release (196/00), 12 June 2000

HORMONES - MAFF Stands Firm on Commission Proposal for EU Beef Hormones Ban

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown is calling for firm scientific evidence to justify proposals by the European Commission to amend existing Community legislation on the use of hormones as growth promoters in meat and permanently ban a hormone which is used as a growth promoter in food-producing animals.

The Commission proposes a permanent ban on the use of 17 oestradiol for growth promotion and also, for the first time, when used for therapeutic uses and to regulate the reproductive cycle. Five other growth-promoting hormones would also be provisionally banned pending further scientific information.

The Commission's Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health (SCVPH) in a new report says it considered evidence from a sub-group of the UK's independent Veterinary Products Committee which had concluded that the scientific evidence in an earlier SCVPH report did not support the Community ban on the use of hormonal growth promoters. Similar evidence was provided by the Commission's own Committee on Veterinary Medical Products (CVMP) and the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Health Organisation Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

However, the SCVPH has not answered the scientific arguments and facts advanced in the two reports and cites no new evidence to support its opinion.

Without such evidence, the UK continues to question the scientific case for the ban.

Nick Brown said:

"A group of independent UK experts comprehensively reviewed the original SCVPH report last year. They advised me that the scientific evidence available at the time did not support the ban on the use of hormonal growth promoters in food producing animals and the import from third countries of meat and meat products derived from animals treated with these substances.

"This conclusion was later reinforced by those of the commission's own CVMP and the JECFA.

"Unless new scientific evidence is made available for a full evaluation by independent UK experts, the position of the UK Government is unchanged. We do not accept that the scientific case for a ban has been made. We will, however, continue to fulfil our European obligations by enforcing the ban in the United Kingdom."

The following additional notes are provided:

1. The use of hormonal growth promoters has been banned in the European Community since 1988. In addition, any third country which permits the use of growth promoting hormones is required to guarantee that no animals and no meat coming from animals to which they have been administered will be exported to the Community. The UK has consistently opposed this ban on the grounds that the available scientific evidence did not justify its imposition.

2. In 1998 the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Appellate Body ruled that the EU had not undertaken a proper risk assessment prior to imposing the ban on hormone growth promoters and that the scientific reports referred to by the Commission did not rationally support the EU position. The EU was required to comply with the ruling by 13 May 1999.

3. The European Commission initiated a new risk assessment consisting of a number of related research projects. The Commission published the first report of the SCVPH on the Internet on 30 April 1999. It was expected this would be revisited as and when the other studies initiated by the Commission became available. The only other report published so far dealt specifically with the practical problems arising with the administration of hormone growth promoters in the US.

4. The Minister of Agriculture asked UK experts to look at the April 1999 SCVPH report very carefully and advise on its implications. A Sub-Group of the independent Veterinary Products Committee published its Report on 19 October 1999 and concluded that the scientific evidence in the SCVPH report did not support the Community ban on the use of hormonal growth promoters. The Sub-Group expressed concerns about certain conclusions reached by the SCVPH.

5. On 24 May the European Commission adopted a Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council. In essence the Proposal is to definitively ban all use of 17 oestradiol and its derivatives in food producing animals and to allow its use in non-food producing animals only where there is no alternative treatment. Five other growth-promoting hormones (testosterone, progesterone, trenbolone acetate, zeranol and melengesterole acetate) would continue to be prohibited for use for growth-promoting purposes but would still be available for therapeutic and zootechnical purposes under strict controls. The position would be provisional pending the availability of more complete scientific evidence. The Commission also published the 3 May 2000 opinion of the SCVPH which had prompted this proposal. The SCVPH has reconsidered its opinion of April 1999 in the light of reports from the UK Sub-Group, the CVMP and JECFA. It does not seek to answer any of the scientific arguments put forward by these eminent groups nor does it reference any new scientific papers issued since April last year which might rebut them. It concludes that "this recent information did not provide convincing data and arguments demanding revision of the conclusions drawn in the opinion of the SCVPH of 30 April 1999 on the potential risks to human health from hormone residues in bovine meat and meat products".

To go to current EU Food Law News page,
click here.
To go to main Food Law Index page, click here.