Food Law News - EU - 2000

Commission Press Release (IP/00/1369), 29 November 2000

BSE - SSC adopts opinion on scientific justification of national BSE measures

The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), advising the European Commission on BSE related issues, has today adopted an opinion on the scientific justifications submitted by Italy, Spain, Austria and France for national measures to reduce the BSE risk. The Committee, in special session, examined the submissions at the request of the Commission, following the conclusions of the Agriculture Council of 20/21 November. The scientists had previously predicted the recent increase in the reported incidence of BSE in France and Ireland, in its Geographical BSE Risk analysis in July 2000. This view has been confirmed by increased testing and improved surveillance. Import bans are not justified in the SSC view by the evidence submitted so far by the countries concerned. Effective implementation of the ban on meat-an-bone meal cattle feed, of sound rendering practices and removal of specified risk materials in importing and exporting countries would probably exclude the need for trade restrictions. Until this is achieved, some temporary trade restrictions might be justified. They should be based on assessments of the implementation of BSE risk management measures and of BSE risk in the Member States concerned. The SSC recommends a temporary ban on feeding MBM to all farmed animals and pets where a significant risk of cross-contamination of cattle feed with MBM possibly contaminated with the BSE agent is found. It recommends that Member States assess this risk nationally. The new French risk reduction measures, i.e. removal of vertebrae, bovine intestines and casings, are found to be scientifically justified in the French context.

The Committee adopted its opinion under strict time constraint imposed by the agreement reached between the Commission and Member States at the last Agriculture Council. Austria, Italy, and Spain had to submit within 24 hours scientific justification for their measures against imports from France, and, in the case of Spain, also against imports from Ireland. France submitted the scientific grounds for its planned or current national measures to reduce the BSE risk.

The SSC considered that an increase in the number of BSE cases in France and Ireland does not provide new scientific elements in favour of import bans. An increase in reported incidence was predicted in its geographical BSE risk analysis of July this year, and the newly detected cases resulting from increased testing and growing awareness only confirm these predictions. Therefore the significance of the additional external challenge from French or Irish imports is not proven. Arguments that imports of life cattle from France and Ireland could increase the geographical BSE risk in the importing country were also considered as not substantially justified so far.

Temporary trade restrictions might be justified in so far as resulting from national differences in the effective implementation and control of the ruminant-to-ruminant feed ban, sound rendering and SRM removal rules, and different levels of BSE risk between the importing and exporting Member State. Also alternative options to import restrictions should be considered. Restrictions on the import of semen, embryo's and ova have no scientific basis.

The Committee recognises that cross contamination of cattle feed with feed destined for other animals and which contains meat-and-bone meal possibly contaminated by the BSE agent is a serious problem for animal and consumer health. Member States should therefore assess the risk of cross contamination nationally. Where such a risk is identified, the SSC recommends a temporary ban on MBM in the feed of all farmed animals and pets as the most effective approach to stop BSE from spreading.

Removal of bovine vertebral column from the feed and food chain, and from the production of tallow and gelatine can, according to the scientists, reduce the BSE risk in France, as well as in other countries. They also recommend removal of the entire bovine intestine and casings from the food and feed chain in all cases of non-negligible BSE risk.

The full text of the opinion can be consulted at :

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