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 :