Food Law News - EU - 1998

10 June 1998: BEEF - Commission proposes further amendment to UK beef export ban

Commission Press Release (IP/98/518 ), 10 June 1998

Commission proposes further amendment to UK beef export ban

The European Commission approved a draft proposal to change legislation on Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in relation to the export of beef and beef products from the United Kingdom. The proposal sets the rules for a future partial lift of the ban on the export of beef and beef products under the so-called Date-based Export Scheme (DBES). This scheme will allow the dispatch, under certain criteria, of deboned fresh meat and products thereof from eligible animals born after 1 August 1996, the date at which the meat-and-bone meal ban was in place and properly enforced. To address the risk of maternal transmission, animals are only eligible if they are not the offspring of BSE affected dams. The proposal will now be submitted to the Standing Veterinary Committee for an opinion which requires a qualified majority and is then adopted by the Commission. In the absence of a qualified vote, it is sent to the Council of Ministers who can adopt it by qualified majority or reject it by a simple majority of member states. In the case where one or other of these conditions is not met the Commission can adopt the proposal.

In the European Council of 22 June 1996, leading to the Florence Agreement, the steps for a gradual removal of the prohibitions were set out. One of the steps foreseen is the scheme for export of meat from animals born after the effective implementation of the ban on the feeding of mammalian meat-and-bone meal to all farm animals in the UK. Furthermore, the implementation of an effective system of bovine identification by the UK was laid down as one of the preconditions for this step. In accordance with the Florence Agreement the Commission verified by inspection missions the implementation of the preconditions including the reliable implementation of the feed ban and a bovine passport system.

The United Kingdom first put forward in October 1997 a detailed proposal for a Date-based Export Scheme (DBES). This proposal was submitted to the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC), which reported on the proposal on 9 December 1997, 23 January 1998 and, in the form of a final report on a revised proposal, on 20 February 1998. The SSC recommended amongst others that the date-based export scheme should be combined with the compulsory slaughter of offspring of BSE-cases, that the scheme should be limited to deboned meat of cattle between 6 and 30 months of age and that evidence should be provided that the dam survived 6 months after the birth of the animal from which the products are derived. It also recommended that the ultimate acceptability of the programme should depend on documentation on effective implementation and monitoring of the feed ban, the selective cull and tracing and identification systems of animals and products thereof.

Fully in accordance with the scientific advice, the Commission now proposes the legal framework for a partial lifting of the ban under the rules of the DBES. This scheme will allow the dispatch of deboned fresh meat and meat products from eligible animals born and reared in the United Kingdom after 1 August 1996. A bovine animal is eligible for export provided all records of its lifetime and movements are recorded either in the animal's official passport or on an official computerised identification and tracing system and if the animal is more than 6 months but less than 30 months of age. Furthermore evidence must be provided that the dam of the eligible animals has lived for at least 6 months after the birth and has not contracted BSE. A supplementary condition for the DBES is the slaughtering of all offspring born after 1 August 1996 of dams in which BSE has been confirmed. The conditions relating to the controls in general and the approval and supervision of the establishments are identical to the strict measures which have been laid down for the Export Certified Herds Scheme (ECHS). Approved establishments can handle exclusively products from the ECHS, DBES and products of non-UK origin, which are eligible for dispatch from the UK.

Before the partial lifting of the ban becomes effective a control mission by the Food and Veterinary Office will have to be carried out on all aspects of the DBES. The mission will in particular address the controls of eligibility, the supervision of the establishments dedicated to the DBES, traceability of animals and meat and the offspring cull, which has to be carried out before dispatch of meat may resume.

Particular attention will also be paid to the improvements in the level of supervision of all slaughterhouses and cutting plants throughout the UK.

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