The current annual cost of enforcing the necessary regulations - which require the removal and safe disposal of animal tissue that may contain BSE infectivity - for these two extra years is estimated at around £20 million a year.
Today's decision to continue the funding until 31st March 2004 means that the industry will not have to face an extra financial burden. It also means that consumers - whose interests are paramount in all that the Agency does - can be reassured that safety controls are being maintained to a high standard without any of the costs being passed on.
The Specified Risk Material (SRM) Regulations 1997 require the removal and safe disposal of animal tissue that may contain BSE infectivity. The regulations are enforced at licensed abattoirs and cutting plants by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), an Agency of the Food Standards Agency. After consultation, the Government announced in March 1999 its intention to introduce charging for the cost of MHS enforcement. The necessary legislation was passed by Parliament.
In view of the difficult circumstances facing the livestock industry, in April last year a deferral of charging for the financial year 1999/2000 was announced. A further deferral of charging until 31 March 2002 at the earliest was included in the support package for farmers announced by the Agriculture Minister on 20th September 1999.
The Meat Industry Red Tape Working Group report (The Pooley Report), which was published in December 1999, recommended that - as a public health protection measure - SRM enforcement costs should be met by the Government for as long as the controls remained in place.
Responsibility for SRM controls, and the issue of charging, passed to the Food Standards Agency in April this year when the Agency was established.