Food Law News - UK - 2003

FSA Consultation, 8 August 2003

BSE - Amendments to EU regulation 999/2001 on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs)

The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) unanimously voted in favour of the proposals on 21 May. The amending Regulation 1139/2003 was formally adopted 27 June and published in the Official Journal on 28 June and will come into force on 1 October.

Consultation details

A copy of Regulation 1139/2003 is available on the FSA web-site. The following changes will come into force with effect from 1 October 2003:

The ileum of sheep and goats of all ages will be SRM

This means that the ileum must be separated from the intestine in the gut room, stained and disposed of as SRM.

Particular care will need to be taken to ensure the entire ileum is removed. The FSA welcome views on how this additional process will affect operations and whether any additional cost will result.

The FSA understand that in the UK, sheep ileum is not currently used in the manufacture of sausage casings or meat products, although it is known some plants do export the whole intestine.

The tonsils of cattle of all ages will be SRM

Tonsil is already SRM in cattle aged over six months at slaughter in the UK.

Under separate EU wide hygiene regulations, tonsil from cattle of any age cannot enter the food chain so the only impact of this change is that the tonsils of animals under six months of age at slaughter must be stained blue and disposed of as SRM.

At present, in the UK, the entire heads (with tonsils attached) of calves aged less than six months are usually disposed of as an animal by-product. Therefore as a result of this measure whole heads of calves less than six months will additionally be required to be stained blue and disposed of as SRM.

The FSA are seeking the views of any businesses processing calves under six months of age on the impact of this change and in particular those that may process calf heads, part or all of which may be used in the food chain.

Bovine tongue removal

The new regulation requires that bovine tongues must be harvested at the slaughterhouse by a transverse cut rostral to the lingual process of the basihyoid bone. The FSA believe that this process is current practice in most if not all plants in the UK. If this is not the case the FSA would welcome information on the potential impact of this requirement.

Recently published research has indicated that not all traces of tonsil are removed by current harvesting methods. The Meat Hygiene Service have therefore produced detailed guidance for plants including a poster containing photographs explaining exactly how the cut should be made in order to reduce potential contamination with tonsillar tissue to a minimum. This should now be available in all red meat slaughterhouses.

Bovine carcases containing vertebral column

At present it is permitted to import whole bovine carcases, half carcases and quarter carcases containing vertebral column, from other Member States, provided they are consigned directly to a cutting plant additionally licensed to remove vertebral column.

In a new provision this rule is being expanded to include half carcases cut in to no more than three wholesale cuts. The FSA understand this reflects the actual trade between Member States.

In addition to the requirements of the new Regulation and in response to questions received the FSA are informing people of a measure currently in force in other Member States but not yet introduced in the UK:

Removal of bovine vertebral column - blue stripe labelling

A current requirement of the Community Regulations is the application of a blue stripe label to those carcases where the vertebral column is not SRM, to indicate that removal is not required.

This is not presently implemented in the UK because vertebral column is required to be removed only from over-thirty-month (OTM) cattle and the only OTM animals currently allowed into the food chain are a small number of low risk animals from Beef Assurance Scheme herds.

A short fact sheet setting out the requirements of the Regulation is available.

This issue has been mentioned by the FSA in the light of recent advice from the Food Standards Agency to Ministers about replacing the OTM rule. Blue stripe labelling would need to apply in future to younger cattle in the event of successor arrangements being introduced.

The FSA are giving early warning of this potential new requirement seeking views on how this blue stripe process would affect individual operations and what any potential additional costs might be.

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