Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA Press Release, 7 May 2002

BSE - Agency to review 'Over Thirty Month Rule' BSE control

The Food Standards Agency is to review the Over Thirty Month (OTM) rule, which currently prohibits the sale of meat for human consumption from cattle aged over 30 months at slaughter.

This rule was introduced in 1996 and has had a major impact on reducing the risk to public health by significantly limiting the number of infected animals which might otherwise have entered the food chain. The review will consider whether any changes to the rule could be made without increasing the risk to public health.

Other measures such as the Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls are to remain as they are.

The SRM rule specifies that the parts of cattle most likely to carry BSE infectivity (including brain tissue and spinal cord) must be removed before they enter the food chain. The Agency's review of BSE controls, published in December 2000, recommended that the OTM rule be reviewed in 2002 in the light of the overall decline in BSE in the UK and specifically the impact of the tightened feed controls in 1996.

Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said:
'The Agency's primary concern is to protect the consumer from BSE risk. As with all the BSE controls, this rule should be maintained for as long as it is needed to protect public health. But it is right to update our assessment and management of risk in light of the latest scientific evidence. We will be seeking advice from the top experts'.

A joint FSA/SEAC (Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee) risk assessment group will provide scientific input to the review. Professor Peter Smith, the Chairman of SEAC, will chair this group. SEAC provides independent expert scientific advice to Government on BSE issues. The group's risk assessment will be considered by SEAC.

The Agency will hold two public meetings, firstly to gather views and concerns from stakeholders about the review, secondly to consult on any proposals for change that come out of the review.

Recommendations will be submitted to the Agency's Board and its decisions will form the basis of advice to Ministers.

The OTM rule was introduced in 1996 because very few animals had shown signs of BSE at this age and the earliest appearance of BSE in cattle that had been experimentally fed with infected material was at about 32 months. The OTM rule was, therefore, a precaution to further reduce the possibility of BSE infection entering the food chain, after the probable link between BSE and vCJD was established.

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