Food Law News - UK - 2002

DEFRA Press Release (383/02), 25 September 2002

BEEF - British Beef Back on European Menus

The first shipment of British beef abroad since the start of the Foot and Mouth outbreak was today welcomed by Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty as a vital boost to the cattle industry. The first export consignment of beef from the UK since February 2001 left St Merryn Meat, Merthyr Tydfil, for the Netherlands today under the Date-Based Export Scheme (DBES).

Changes to the DBES pressed for by the UK now make it easier for companies to produce DBES beef for export, and it is hoped that other producers will now take advantage of the scheme.

Lord Whitty said:
"I am delighted that we have started to export British beef again. Our high-quality beef is in demand, and British beef is amongst the safest in the world. We have worked closely with St Merryn to ensure that British beef can be back on menus outside the UK, and it is a boost to the industry to see its produce heading abroad again. We hope that amendments to the Date Based Export Scheme rules secured by this government will encourage renewed participation in the scheme and enable British beef to begin to regain its rightful place on world markets."

The following notes are added:

The Date-based Export Scheme (DBES) allows the resumption of exports of fresh beef and beef products from UK cattle born after 1 August 1996.

Exports of UK DBES beef have been permitted since 1 August 1999.

Two plants - St. Merryn Meats at Probus, near Truro, and Scotbeef at Strathaven, Lanarkshire - were approved to export beef under the scheme. Both slaughterhouses exported small quantities of high value beef to a number of countries until meat exports were stopped as a result of foot and mouth disease (FMD). Following the lifting of FMD export restrictions these companies did not seek reapproval under the DBES due to the onerous conditions of the scheme, but following changes to DBES rules in August (see below) St Merryn Meats applied to re-enter the scheme from their Merthyr Tydfil plant.

The UK government asked the European Commission to propose a revision to the dedication rule to permit slaughterhouses to specify periods when only DBES cattle whose meat is eligible for export will be slaughtered, and cutting plants and other establishments handling DBES beef to operate so that such meat is handled at a separate time or place to ineligible meat.

The Commission's Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health voted on 17 July in favour of a proposal which also made provision for the export of bone-in veal from DBES eligible animals aged between 6-9 months and for the export of bovine embryos. These changes are in line with the opinions of the Commission's Standing Scientific Committee (SSC) and amendments to the Animal Health Code which the OIE (the international animal health organisation) adopted at its meeting in May 2002.

On 20 August 2002 the Commission formally agreed to the changes. Legislation in Wales came into force on 10 September, with legislation in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to follow shortly.

Membership of the EU has provided great help in the resumption of beef exports. The EU has provided a dependable framework for ensuring that beef exports can resume from the UK through the Florence Agreement drawn up in June 1996. This framework was backed up by the EU's scientific bodies to make British beef amongst the safest in the world. Many countries have recognised this advice and have subsequently lifted their bans. Without this framework, the task of persuading other Member States and countries outside the EU to lift their bans would have been considerably more difficult.

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