Food Law News - EU - 2000

Commission Memo (MEMO/00/101), 5 December 2000

BSE - Extraordinary Agriculture Minister Council on BSE

The Council agreed by a very large qualified majority to introduce a temporary ban on meat and bone meal for all farm animals from 1 January 2001. The ban is valid until 30 June 2001 and prohibits the feeding of processed animal proteins to farmed animals which are kept, fattened or bred for the productions of food. Fish meal can continued to be fed to fish, pigs and poultry under conditions ensuring no cross-contamination and amongst others derogations has also been granted to the use of gelatine from non-ruminants. The ban does not include animal fats, because proteins in animal fats are to be filtered out from 1 January 2001.

Commenting on the adoption, Commissioner David Byrne, responsible for Health and Consumer Protection said: "I am very satisfied that the Council followed the approach of the Commission. I remain of the view it would not be necessary to ban meat- and bone meal if the relevant Community controls on the EU safety legislation to reduce any risk of BSE were strictly implemented. But we will now have time to look at the different control systems in the Member States. A temporary ban is necessary to re-establish credibility in Member States control systems and to reassure consumers."

The Council also agreed on a two-step approach how to deal with several measures taken by Member States going further than the Community framework during the last month. The Commission will propose how to deal with these measures based on the opinion of the Scientific Steering Committee before the 1 January 2001 (i.e ban on import of live animals from France to Spain, Italy and Austria). The Commission will also consult the Scientific Steering Committee before the 15 January 2001 on the remaining national measures in place (withdrawal of thymus, vertebral column, spleen and T-Bone of a cattle from the food chain and animal fats from MBM). It will propose again to the Standing Veterinary Committee to either have these measures lifted or extend their scope to the entire Community.

The Council gave its blessing to the Commission's proposal to introduce a „Purchase for destruction scheme" for all cattle over 30 months, unless they are tested BSE-negative. Such a scheme will provide a cost efficient alternative to intervention and avoid the problem of what to do with the meat after expensive storage. The beef producer receives a price as close as possible to the market price for the cattle to destroyed, co-financed 70% by the EU and 30% by the Member States. The Commission will now submit a formal proposal to the Management Committee Beef on 12 December where the outstanding technicalities of the scheme will be clarified. In this context, the Commission will also examine whether a derogation will be acceptable for those countries with a low BSE-incidence.

As a support measure for beef producers, the advances paid for the beef premia will be raised from 60% to 80%.

The Commission committed itself to analyse the EU policy on protein plants and to make adequate proposals, if necessary.

Commenting on the Council, Commissioner Fischler said: „I am satisfied that the Council could agree to the Commission's admittedly bold initiatives. Today the EU has sent a clear signal that we are prepared to act together in order to combat BSE, restore consumer confidence and rebalance the beef market. I am aware that the proposed "purchase for destruction" scheme might sound like an unusual measure. However, unusual situations justify specific and, if need be, unusual answers. The aim of my proposal is to contribute to a reestablishment of a market equilibrium by trying to regain the confidence of the consumer in beef as well as by taking away from the market a considerable part of the surplus of the supplies."

Mr Fischler made clear that the scheme does not exclude the use of more classic market instruments like public intervention. "The proposed measures could just be financed under the existing margin under the Berlin ceiling, if

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