Food Law News - UK - 2006

VPC News Release (06/04), 5 July 2006

HORMONES - EU Hormones Ban: New Independent UK Scientific Assessment by the Veterinary Products Committee

Independent scientific advisors in the UK have concluded that they are unable to support the conclusion of the EU Scientific Committee on Veterinary measures relating to Public Health (SCVPH), that risks associated with the consumption of meat from hormone-treated cattle may be greater than previously thought.

According to the Veterinary Products Committee, the weight of evidence currently available suggests that likely levels of human exposure to hormonally-active substances in meat from treated animals would not be sufficient to induce any measurable physiological effect. However, the committee's views on some parts of the text were not unanimous.

In reaching its conclusion the Committee acknowledges there are important gaps in the evidence base that preclude producing definitive risk assessments for 17ßoestradiol or the other five hormonally active substances.

The chairman of the Veterinary Products Committee, David Skilton, said: “We believe our report is a thorough and balanced contribution to the scientific debate on the risks associated with the use of hormonal substances in food-producing animals. I am grateful to the VPC's members for their contributions and their recommendations.”

Although the UK has always disagreed with the scientific evidence underpinning the EU ban it has always been fully implemented in the UK and this will continue. As matters stand, there is no question of the EU or the UK Government authorising hormonal substances for the purposes of growth promotion in food-producing animals.

Notes to Editors

1. A previous Working Group set up to examine this issue reported in October 1999 (MAFF News Release 355/99).

2. The current Working Group of the independent Veterinary Products Committee (VPC) was set up in November 2002. Its purpose was to assess an Opinion of the EU's Scientific Committee on Veterinary measures relating to Public Health (SCVPH), published in April 2002 and other recent scientific evidence on the risks associated with the use of hormonal substances in farm animals. The SCVPH Opinion is available at:

3. The VPC provides Defra Ministers with scientific advice on any aspect of veterinary medicinal products and specified feed additives. This includes: risk/benefit analysis, of the safety, quality and efficacy of a veterinary medicinal product. The Working Group members were:

4. The report was approved and recommended for publication at the VPC's May 2006 meeting. Two VPC members, John Verrall and Prof Diana Anderson, did not approve all of the conclusions of the report. However, the VPC considered that their minority views, expressed in relation to the precautionary principle being applied where the scientific data are incomplete and the conclusions of the SCVPH, are included in the report.

5. The report went out to public consultation on 17 August 2005 . The report, the consultation responses and the VPC's commentary on those responses are available from the Defra Information Resource Centre, Lower Ground Floor, Ergon House, 17 Smith Square , London SW1P 3JR .

6. In 1998 the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Appellate Body ruled that the EU had not undertaken a proper risk assessment prior to imposing the ban on hormone growth promoters and that the scientific reports referred to by the Commission did not rationally support the EU position. The EU was required to comply with the ruling by 13 May 1999 .

7. The European Commission produced a new risk assessment in 2002 from 17 related research projects it sponsored. The VPC Working Group had access to all of the original project reports from the Commission's projects and other recent scientific papers.

8. The Commission returned to the WTO in 2004 stating its belief that the EC now met its WTO obligations, and requesting that the US/Canada lift their sanctions. A new WTO Disputes Panel has been formed to consider the offensive case brought by the European Community. The background to the dispute can be found on the WTO and Commission websites:

9. Copies of the Working Group report, consultation responses and VPC commentary on the responses are available, free of charge, from Isabel Sharma at the Veterinary Medicines Directorate. Telephone 01932 338330, fax 01932336618, e-mail These documents are also available from the VMD and VPC websites:

To go to main Foodlaw-Reading Index page, click here.