The OTM Rule - one of the key BSE controls introduced to protect food safety - effectively prohibits from human consumption meat from cattle aged over 30 months at the time of slaughter. Under the framework of the review, a Risk Assessment Group chaired by Professor Peter Smith, Chair of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), will look at the relative risk of making changes to the rule.
This group, which includes scientists from other countries, will provide advice to a core stakeholder group. The core stakeholder group's findings will in turn be put to a wider group that will consider additional specific issues, for example geographical factors that take account of different rates of BSE in different parts of the UK.
Sir John explained to the 120 people at the public meeting, including delegates from the farm and food industries, scientists and consumer representatives, that the requirement to review the OTM Rule in 2002 was set out in the Agency's original 'Review of BSE Controls', released in December 2000.
He added that the Agency expected to complete the OTM Rule review by early 2003.
Presentations were made at the meeting by SEAC Chair Professor Peter Smith, NFU Scotland President Jim Walker, British Meat Federation Director Peter Scott, and Dr John Godfrey, member of the consumer organisation Foodaware.
Questions and contributions were then taken from the floor, with Sir John chairing a panel including the above speakers and Kevin Hawkins, Safeway's Director of Communications; and Dick Sibley, Senior Vice-President of the British Cattle Veterinary Association.
A further public meeting will be held by the FSA as part of the public consultation process on any proposed changes.