Food Law News - EU - 2000

Commission Press Release (IP/00/636), 19 June 2000

BSE: Byrne States Commission Intention to Adopt Key Health Protection Measure to Reduce BSE Risk

Commissioner David Byrne, responsible for Health and Consumer Protection has today welcomed the support of a majority of Member States at the Agriculture Council for a key decision strengthening consumer health protection by taking animal tissues likely to be infected with BSE out of the food and feed chain. The proposed decision can now be adopted by the European Commission in the absence of a simple majority of Member States against the proposal. The objective of the decision is to introduce harmonising rules for the removal of specified risk materials presenting a BSE risk as of October 1st. Slaughterhouses and meat cutting and processing plants in the UK and Portugal will have to take out more tissues given their higher BSE risk. In all Member States, including those countries where so far no BSE case has been detected, the tissues most likely to present a BSE risk will need to be discarded.

"This is a major breakthrough in our work of the past years to make sure that the highest health protection standards are in place throughout the EU", said David Byrne. "I am very pleased with the simple majority reached by the Member States. This measure is the best possible safeguard to keep the meat products clear of BSE infectivity, and to protect consumers from the risk of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Together with the improved BSE monitoring and testing program agreed with the Member States in April we will have a solid and comprehensive package of measures in place to prevent future crises and deliver on our food safety promises. "

The measures reflect the key recommendations of the Commission's Scientific Steering Committee, which has repeatedly insisted on the need to remove specified risk materials (SRM's) from the food and feed chain in all EU countries. The discovery of a first BSE case in Denmark in March this year further strengthened the doubts about the BSE-free status of countries where so far no BSE case had been identified.

The Decision as voted upon today will require all Member States to make slaughterhouse and authorised meat cutting and processing plants remove (short list):

In the UK and Portugal slaughterhouses and authorised meat cutting and processing plants will in addition be required to remove (long list): The vertebral column may also be removed at the point of sale.

The short list of SRMs to be removed will apply equally to third countries from 1 April 2001 onwards if their BSE-free status is not established by a scientific risk assessment. National measures, which already foresee that third countries have to remove SRMs, can stay in place until the coming into effect of the Community measure.

The Decision will also prohibit the use of certain slaughtering techniques which entail a risk of contamination of animal blood by the release of BSE infected tissue into the bloodstream as of 31 December 2000.

The provisions of this Decision will be repealed when the proposed Council and European Parliament Regulation for the prevention and control of certain transmissible encephalopathies enters into force. The regulation is foreseen to be discussed by the Council in autumn.

This Decision will replace a previous Commission Decision 97/534/EC on the use of risk BSE materials whose entry into force had been repeatedly delayed. It will be subject to review in the light of new scientific evidence and in function of progress made in controlling and preventing BSE infectivity through risk management measures.

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