Food Law News - EU - 1997

8 October 1997: BSE - Consolidated Report on BSE

Commission Press Release (IP/97/858), 8 October 1997

Consolidated Report on BSE

The Commission answers to 75 key questions on consumer health made by the European Parliament

Eight months after the European Commission and the European Parliament put consumer health and food safety at the centre of a joint political effort to combat BSE, the Commission presented the progress achieved by adopting today the final consolidated report to the Temporary Committee of the European Parliament on the follow-up of recommendations on BSE. The document highlights the achievements that were made in order to eradicate BSE, to protect public health and to regain consumer confidence in food safety. "Current investigations have shown that there are deficiencies in the official control of meat production in Member States" said Mrs. Emma Bonino, Commissioner responsible for consumer policy, "and therefore the Commission will take measures to strengthen the veterinary checks system in the Union in order to improve food safety and fraud prevention". In its report, the Commission puts forward an ambitious work programme, building on the achievements. In pursuing and monitoring this programme the Commission will continue its close co-operation with the other Institutions (European Parliament, Council of Ministers) and the Member States. For the Commission it is obvious that also Member States will have to face up to their responsibilities, in particular concerning controls, if the fight against BSE is to be won. The Commission will report twice a year to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers on further progress.

The final consolidated report on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE/mad cow disease) highlights the major joint political effort made by the Commission and the European Parliament to eradicate BSE, to regain consumer confidence in food safety and to protect public health. The document answers the 75 detailed questions of the Temporary Committee on the follow-up of recommendations on BSE and points to the following achievements:

The Commission expresses its full sympathy to the victims of the new variant of the Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (nvCJD). Recent scientific findings published in "Nature" on 2 October 1997 found clear similarities of nvCJD in humans and BSE in animals. The families of the victims have addressed a request for "a no-fault compensation scheme" to the United Kingdom government. In the spirit of solidarity, the Commission agrees with the European Parliament that financing could be provided through the EU budget in addition to means made available by Member States, under the condition that corresponding initiatives are taken by the latter. "Solidarity could be expressed through subventions to associations in the field, such as the new variant of the Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease Families Association, to assist their development and operations", proposed Mrs. Bonino.

Building on the conclusions of the committee of inquiry, the Commission has undertaken major reorganisation measures which should ensure that the Commission is in a position to react appropriately to challenges in the field of consumer health. Mr Erkki Liikanen, EU Commissioner responsible for personnel, said: "We have put our house in order. The new management in the veterinary field has the Commission's full confidence." As regards possible disciplinary measures referred to in the inquiry report, the Commission has examined the matter and has not found any ground which would justify the opening of the disciplinary procedure.

The Commission also stresses that some major issues will have to be addressed in the future:

Transparency and openness are essential for convincing the European consumer that the scientific advice provided to the Commission is really geared to the objective of protecting their health. A permanent dialogue and in-depth discussion between consumer organisations, industry, producers and other socio-economic operators, scientific advisers and political decision-makers is of great importance. However, it must also be stressed that the work programme does not depend on the Commission alone: the European Parliament and the Council, as co-legislators, will also have an important part to play. In pursuing and monitoring this programme, the Commission wishes to continue a close and constructive co-operation, following normal procedures, with the European Parliament and it intends to report twice-a-year to the European Parliament and the Council on further progress.

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