Food Law News - EU - 1998

11 November 1998: BEEF - Commission proposes UK Date Based Export Scheme

Commission Press Release (IP/98/980 ), 11 November 1998

Commission proposes UK Date Based Export Scheme

The European Commission has approved a proposal to the Council of Ministers for a Date Based Export Scheme (DBES), which, when approved and its application and control has been verified, would allow a date to be established for the resumption of exports of beef and beef products but only from a certain defined category of the United Kingdom (UK) beef herd. This scheme would apply only to deboned meat and meat products obtained from animals born after the 1 August 1996 (the date on which it is considered that the meat-and-bone meal ban in the UK was fully effective) and which are over six months and under thirty months of age. The scheme also includes the slaughter and destruction of offspring from Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) infected animals and verification that the dam of the animal concerned has lived for at least six months after birth and not developed BSE. Strict rules on identification of animals and traceability of animals and meat are also included.

This scheme has been endorsed by the Scientific Steering Committee and by a majority of the member states in the Standing Veterinary Committee. Indeed it was clear that more member states supported the proposal from a technical point of view than the eight countries who voted in favour, but some believed that the setting of the date for exports to resume should be the responsibility of Council, while the Florence agreement of June 96 agreed at the level of Heads of State gives this responsibility to the Commission.

It should be stressed that if and when all steps have been approved exports under this scheme would apply only to meat and meat products from animals over six months and under thirty months of age. (The chance of finding a case of BSE found in animals of this age is negligible). Animals over thirty months of age which are slaughtered will continue to be destroyed. (Over 2.5 million have been slaughtered to date under this scheme). Furthermore the offspring of BSE cases are being traced and destroyed so as to eliminate the risk relating to maternal transmission of BSE.

Finally the scheme applies only to cattle born after 1 August 1996 as it is considered to be the date after which adequate guarantees have been given that these animals could not have been fed meat-and-bone meal.

The feeding of meat-and-bone meal to all farmed livestock was banned in the UK from 4 April 1996, while the ban to feed cattle with meat-and-bone meal came already into force in January 1989. By the 1 August 1996 all feed containing mammalian meat-and-bone meal in the UK had been recalled and the premises in which it was contained had been disinfected. Furthermore it was by this date a legal offence to have under its possession, to sell, supply or feed meat-and-bone meal.

Main elements of the proposal

Only meat and certain meat products from animals born after 1 August 1996 and aged between six and thirty months may be exported. Furthermore offspring of BSE cases born after 1 August 1996 must be slaughtered and destroyed.

The eligibility criteria for the animals are : effective identification and registration of the animal and its dam, age between 6 and 30 months, positive evidence of the survival of the dam for six months after the birth of the calf and no evidence of BSE in the dam.

Under the current proposal meat plants have to be specifically approved if they want to slaughter animals or to process, store and dispatch beef and beef products under the rules of the DBES. As a condition for approval, these establishments are not allowed to process or handle bovine products not eligible for export. Approved cold-stores have to store products eligible for export in dedicated chambers.

Furthermore, the strict control rules applying to the Export Certified Herds Scheme (ECHS), including the requirement of an additional health mark and sealing, have to be implemented for the DBES also.

Eligible animals and establishments anywhere on the territory of the United Kingdom may qualify. Following the new Decision, meat of animal slaughtered in Northern Ireland under the rules of the Export Certified Herds Scheme could also be processed and stored in and dispatched from establishments in Great Britain specially approved under the Decision.

It is expected that the Council of Agricultural Ministers will deal with this proposal during the meeting of 23-24 November 1998. If the Council neither adopts the proposal by a qualified majority, or rejects it by a simple majority, the Commission

To go to current EU Food Law News page,
click here.
To go to main Food Law Index page, click here.