Food Law News - EU - 2001

Commission Press Release (IP/01/1088), 25 July 2001

BSE - Export Restrictions of Portuguese Beef Gradually Lifted from 1 August Onwards

The European Commission has decided today the date to gradually lift the ban on Portuguese beef exports as from 1 August 2001, thus allowing the resumption of certain dispatches under the strict conditions of the Data Based Export Scheme (DBES). Member States had agreed in March to the lifting of the embargo in general but the concrete date was yet to be determined. The Commission's decision was taken after the latest control missions of the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) in May and June this year confirmed the correct implementation of the scheme on the ground and after the results were presented to Member States in a meeting of the Standing Veterinary Committee on 10 July. Only de-boned meat from animals born after 1 July 1999, between 6 and 30 months of age and complying with the conditions of the DBES are eligible for export. The ban on exports of live bovine animals from Portugal remains in place.

Commissioner David Byrne, responsible for Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed the decision: "Portugal has taken the necessary action to allow the re-opening of markets to Portuguese beef under very strict conditions where there is no risk to consumers."

The Data Based Export Scheme implemented by Portugal is essentially designed to give certainty and security that the beef products traded are derived from animals that are safe for human consumption. In practice it puts in place checks to ensure that the fresh meat and meat products put on the market are from animals born after the effective implementation of a feed ban and from BSE-free mothers. A ban on the feeding of mammalian protein, including notably meat-and-bone meal, to all farmed animals and of mammalian fats to cattle and sheep was introduced in Portugal on 4 December 1998. An FVO inspection found in June 1999 that proper controls were in place and the feed ban effectively enforced. The Portuguese BSE eradication plan foresees the slaughter and destruction of birth cohorts (animals born within 12 months in the same herd as a BSE case) and offspring of BSE cases. Evidence must be provided that the mother of the eligible animals has lived for at least 6 months after the birth and has not contracted BSE. The DBES scheme tracks all records of the lifetime and movements of eligible animals on an official computerised identification and tracing system. As of July 1999 such a centralised system for bovine animals has been in place in Portugal. Farms, slaughterhouses and meat plants approved under the Scheme are not allowed to handle any animals or meat not complying with the DBES rules.


The trade restrictions on Portuguese beef, live cattle and animal feedstuffs were put in place in November 1998 because of the rising incidence of BSE and the then insufficient Portuguese risk management. The Animal Health Code of the International Office for Epizootics recommends that countries with high BSE incidence should be allowed to trade in bovine meat and meat products only under strict conditions. The emergency measures adopted by the Commission were amended in July 99, October 99 and January 2000 to take new developments into account.

Portuguese authorities first put forward ideas for a DBES in December 1999, and these ideas were further developed in the light of FVO inspections. The DBES scheme applies to only a limited number of herds which are regularly inspected by Portuguese officials.

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