Food Law News - UK - 2000

FSA Board Policy Statement, 21 December 2000

BSE - Safety of Imported Processed Meat and BSE

In assessing the safety of imported meat and meat products, protecting the public is the FSA's number one priority. As always, we have some fundamental principles:

In relation to imports of beef from France, the FSA advice is that legally sold imported beef poses no greater risk than UK beef. To be sold legally, imported beef must comply with the "over 30 month" (OTM) rule. In addition, material with the highest risk of infection must be removed from cattle.

The FSA are looking not just at the position in France, but at other European countries too, particularly the Republic of Ireland. We are also looking at processed meat products.

Imported processed meat products from countries with a record of BSE may pose a slightly higher risk than legally sold carcass meat. But our judgement, on the evidence currently available, is that the level of risk falls within an acceptable range. The level of risk from imported meat products is broadly similar to that from eating British beef three or four years ago - after the introduction of the UK's measures designed to combat BSE.

On this basis, we do not believe that a ban on the import of processed meat products is justified, and we are not advising consumers to avoid particular products. However, individuals may wish to exercise personal preference to reduce as far as possible any additional risk that may currently be associated with imported beef products. If you wish to do so you should:

The FSA is pressing hard for compulsory country-of-origin labelling in the EU. Until that becomes compulsory we urge retailers in the UK to do all they can to meet consumer needs for labelling on a voluntary basis. The FSA recognises the efforts retailers are making in this area to improve and enforce traceability to benefit consumer choice.

From 1st January new Europe-wide regulations will be introduced, as a result of which imported EU beef and beef products made after that date should be produced to the same safety standards as UK products.

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