Food Law News - EU - 2003

FSA Consultation Letter, 6 January 2003

BSE - Proposed Amendments to EU Regulation 999/2001 on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies

The letter relates to proposed changes to the current EU-wide measures on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)(EC Regulation 999/2001), which will have the effect of extending the list of tissues that are designated as Specified Risk Material (SRM)

Consultation details

Briefly, the current list of SRM's is set out in Community Regulation 999/2001 (as amended). A draft regulation amending these rules is currently being considered by the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH), with a possible vote later this month at a meeting scheduled for the week commencing 20 January. If adopted as currently drafted, then the following changes will come into force with effect from 1 May 2003:

The ileum of sheep and goats of all ages will be classed as SRM. There is a possible risk that BSE may exist in sheep and goats, which might be masked by scrapie. For both diseases the abnormal prion is present in the intestine from an early stage and in particular that part of the intestine known as the ileum, therefore its removal from the food chain has been proposed as a precautionary measure. Sheep Intestine is used to make sausage casings. The FSA understand that in the UK sheep ileum is not currently consumed or used in the manufacture of sausage casings or meat products.

The tonsils of cattle of all ages will be classed as SRM. At present, tonsil is only SRM in animals aged over 6 months at slaughter in the UK and Portugal (or 12 months in other EU States). Under separate EU wide hygiene regulations, tonsil from cattle of any age cannot enter the food chain. The EU Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) recently adopted an opinion on the infectivity distribution in ruminant tissues and recommended that tonsils of bovines of any age should be regarded as posing a BSE risk. This follows on from preliminary Agency-sponsored research which for the first time found BSE infectivity in bovine tonsil. The Agency is minded to accept this proposal as it regularises the removal of tonsil as SRM for all cattle. Bovine tonsil will be required to be stained and disposed of as SRM.

Bovine tongue will be required to be removed in a certain way so as to ensure that there is no risk of visible tonsil tissue remaining on the harvested tongue. Current rules already require that the tongue is removed without visible contamination by tonsil. The new rules state that tongues shall be harvested by an oblique cut at the back of the tongue just before the tongue bones. Any knives used shall be cleaned and disinfected between every slaughtered animal.

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