Commission Press Release (IP/04/1118), 21 September 2004
The EU Member States today accepted a proposal from Commissioner Byrne to lift the embargo on Portugal and remove all restrictions on the export of cows, beef and related animal products. The embargo was adopted in November 1998 because of the high rate of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in Portugal at that time combined with inadequate management of the disease. Since then, Portugal has taken firm risk management action and the incidence of BSE has consistently decreased.
David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said "Portugal has made very significant efforts to deal with its BSE situation and will now reap the rewards of resumed trade. As I approach the end of my term in office, I am very pleased to see that consumer confidence in beef has finally returned as a result of the effective efforts made by all EU countries in the management of BSE."
In 2001, harmonised EU-level legislation for the management of BSE was put in place in all Member States (Regulation (EC) 999/2001). The regulation targets all animal and public health risks resulting from TSEs (of which BSE is the best known) and governs the whole chain of production. An inspection by the FVO in February 2004 showed that Portugal has fully implemented the rules and taken all the actions required by the legislation. Currently, the BSE incidence rate in Portugal, calculated over the previous 12 months, is well below the upper limit for countries with a moderate BSE risk as defined in the International Animal Health Code (200 cases per million of adult cattle in the previous 12 months). Furthermore, the test results indicate that the BSE incidence rate is on a downward trend. It is therefore appropriate to repeal the embargo and remove all restrictions on trade for Portugal. Of course the same rules on BSE management and controls continue to apply to Portugal as with all other Member States (Additional rules apply in the UK).
The decision to lift the embargo was agreed today by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, consisting of representatives of the EU Member State and chaired by the European Commission. During the coming weeks, the legal texts will be formally adopted by the European Commission and published in the Official Journal, after which they will immediately enter into force.
Background to the Portuguese embargo
In 1998 an embargo was placed on all exports of live bovine animals and derived products from Portugal to the rest of the EU (Commission Decision 98/653.EC). Following this embargo, Portugal immediately took action to control the risk of human exposure and the risk of further spreading BSE through animal feed.
The main actions taken were a ban on specified risk materials (like spinal cord, brain, etc) in both human food and animal feed and the so-called "feed ban" preventing the use of mammalian protein and fats being used as animal feed. Both these actions were introduced on 4 December 1998. In addition, a centralised national system for the identification and registration of bovine animals was introduced in Portugal on 1 July 1999.