Food Law News - UK - 2003

FSA Consultation Letter / Press Release (R650-39), 28 March 2003

BSE - FSA consults on replacing Over Thirty Months Rule with BSE testing

Press Release

The Food Standards Agency today launched a written consultation as part of the review of the Over Thirty Months Rule (OTM). Responses are sought to the consultation, which will last for 12 weeks. The written consultation follows a programme of stakeholder meetings, risk assessment, and a public meeting to discuss issues raised in the review, which was held on 7 March 2003.

The Rule is one of the three main BSE control measures. The removal of SRM (Specified Risk Material) removes over 95% of the infectivity in an animal infected with BSE. The third measure is the ban on feeding meat and bone meal to all farm animals, which was introduced in 1996.

The OTM rule prohibits, in the UK, the sale of meat for human consumption from cattle aged over 30 months at slaughter. The Food Standards Agency review is considering whether the rule should be replaced by BSE testing, which is the measure taken in other European Union countries, to provide acceptable levels of public protection.

Sir John Krebs, Chair of the FSA, said:

'There has already been extensive and vigorous discussion during the review process of the Over Thirty Months rule. We are keen to ensure that this consultation process continues to be open and thorough, and we welcome responses to this written consultation over the next twelve weeks.

'Protection of public health will remain the top priority in any decision making on this issue. The risk assessment has shown that any risk resulting from a change in the rule would be very small. Options that are emerging as those which may be most appropriate to consider include complete removal of the rule, or allowing animals born after 1 August 1996 into the food chain.'

Consultation Letter

Consultation details

The Over Thirty Months (OTM) rule prevents, under UK law, most OTM cattle being slaughtered for food. It is one of the three main BSE controls which have been introduced and strengthened since the late 1980s to help protect people from BSE. The other measures are the Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls and the ban on including mammalian meat-and-bone meal in feed for farmed livestock.

As part of the review process, a joint FSA/SEAC risk assessment group provided scientific advice on the risks to consumers posed by OTM cattle under various options for changing the rule. A Core Stakeholder Group considered the measures needed to manage those risks and replacing the OTM rule with BSE testing, taking account of the legal and practical implications and costs. Their findings and recommendations are set out in a report available from the FSA web site.

Comments on the following issues would be particularly welcome:

Changing from the OTM rule is justified

1. While bearing in mind the considerable uncertainties which still surround BSE, the Core Stakeholder Group concluded (paragraphs 47 to 50):

Do you agree with this conclusion?

The options

2. The Core Stakeholder Group agreed two alternative options to the OTM rule should be considered (paragraph 85)
Allowing cattle born after 1 August 1996 into the food supply; or

Which of these options do you prefer? Why?

NOTE: EU-wide rules require a negative test result for BSE and for the vertebral column to be removed from OTM cattle slaughtered for human consumption before the carcase is released into the food supply.


3. The Core Stakeholder Group considered that there should be safeguards to ensure the effective enforcement of a new regime (paragraphs 63 to 64). These were

Do you agree? Do you have any suggestions on these measures?


4. The Core Stakeholder Group recommended a number of provisos on the implementation of alternatives to the OTM rule (paragraphs 70 to 72 and 77). These were

Do you agree? Do you have any other suggestions?

Further risk reduction measures

5. The Core Stakeholder Group made a number of more detailed recommendations on additional risk reduction measures (paragraphs 78 and 81). These were

Do you have any views on these suggestions? Do you have any other suggestions?

Next steps

As yet, no decisions have been made. The Core Stakeholder Group's report, together with the results of this consultation, will be considered by the FSA Board at their public meeting on 10 July 2003 in London. The FSA Board will then make recommendations to Ministers. Any changes to the OTM rule as a result of this process are unlikely to take effect before 1 January 2004.


The Core Stakeholder Group was aware that any changes in the OTM rule would also apply to imported beef (paragraph 82). However, risk assessment information on beef imported from the Republic of Ireland (by far the largest supplier of imported beef) will come forward at a later stage in the Review. The Group formed the view that whatever option is adopted for the future, there should not be an unacceptable discrepancy in risk between imported and home produced beef.

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