Food Law News - EU - 2001

Commission Press Release (IP/01/490), 2 April 2001

BSE - Scientists publish geographical BSE risk assessment for thirteen third countries

The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) advising the European Commission inter alia on BSE related issues has today published its opinion on the Geographical Risk of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (GBR) in Albania, Brazil, Colombia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, India, Mauritius, Pakistan, Poland, Singapore and Slovakia. The Committee concludes that is highly unlikely that cattle infected with the BSE agent are present in domestic herds of Brazil and Singapore (GBR level I). They found that it is unlikely but not excluded in the herds of India, Pakistan, Colombia and Mauritius (GBR level II) and that it is likely that BSE is present in the cattle herds of Albania, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic (GBR level III) although not yet confirmed. The evaluation of the geographical risk of presence of BSE focuses on the risk for animals to incubate the disease.

The Committee found that all Eastern, Central and Southern European countries examined have imported significant amounts of live cattle and meat-and-bone-meal from EU countries where the presence of BSE has since been confirmed. The appropriate risk management measures such as a MBM feed-ban for ruminants were in most cases not put in place until recently. Therefore it is regarded likely that their cattle herds were exposed to potentially BSE contaminated feed and subsequently infected. The SSC also notes that many of these countries have in recent months made significant improvements in their risk management. It will however take time before such improvements will result in an actual reduction of the GBR risk level.

India, Pakistan, Colombia and Mauritius have imported only small amounts of potentially BSE infected meat-and-bone meal, but the data made available to the SSC does not exclude that these imports have reached domestic cattle.

The conclusion of the assessments for Brazil and Singapore are based on data demonstrating that BSE infectivity is highly unlikely to have reached the domestic cattle population, although significant imports of potentially infected live cattle or potentially contaminated meat-and-bone meal into these countries did take place.

These conclusions imply that Brazil and Singapore will benefit from a derogation from the obligation to remove specific risk materials (SRM) like spinal cord or brain from the import of their domestic meat and meat products into the EU.

The SSC recommends that BSE related aspects are included in the programme of future inspection missions of the Food and Veterinary Office as far as feasible so as to obtain confirmation of the information it has received from the national authorities in the countries concerned. For the time being, the scientists underline, their assessment has to be based on the information provided by the assessed countries. As far as possible all data have been evaluated and verified in close co-operation with the countries concerned and in an open and transparent manner. Data on imports provided by third countries have for example been compared with export data as recorded by EUROSTAT, the EU Statistical Office.

The evaluation of the GBR in these third countries was made on the basis of the same method and assessment process as described by the SSC in its July 2000 opinion on the GBR((1)). In the July-opinion the scientists already assessed the GBR risk in all EU Member States except Greece, and a first series of third countries((2)) An assessment for Uruguay was published in January; assessments for Botswana, Lithuania, Namibia, Nicaragua, and Swaziland in February this year.

Assessments of the GBR of another series of third countries (including Bulgaria, Israel, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, El Salvador, Iceland, Japan, Kenya, Macedonia, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Romania, Slovenia, Thailand and Zimbabwe) that have provided a dossier for analysis are ongoing. Most are expected to be finalised next month, at the next SSC-meeting on May 11th.

There are some twenty remaining countries that have so far not submitted a dossier, but are authorised to export meat or meat products into the EU. They include candidate countries for enlargement such as Turkey, Malta and Latvia. All countries for which no assessment has been completed, or for which no assessment has been made, will be required to remove specific risk materials from their exports to the EU of meat and meat products.

The full text of the opinions isvailable at:

Updated Overview of third countries according to Geographical BSE risk classification

Category I: Highly unlikely to present a BSE risk

Category II: Unlikely, but a BSE risk cannot be excluded

Category III: likely to present a BSE risk, even if not confirmed, or presenting a low level of confirmed BSE risk

Category IV: BSE risk confirmed at a high level

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