A certified herd is defined as one in which for at least 8 years, there has been no confirmed case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), nor a suspect case for which the diagnosis of BSE has not been ruled out, in any animal when still in this herd or in any animal after it moved from this herd. The meat from an animal is eligible for export provided all records of its lifetime and movements are recorded on an official computerised tracing system, the animal is more than 6 months old and less than 30 months and the herd of birth and all herds through which the animal has ever moved can be considered as certified herds. The decision lays down a series of stipulations designed to ensure strict official controls, labelling and certification and the traceability of meat and meat products back to the herd of origin.
After the announcement by the UK authorities of a possible link between BSE and a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), the Commission adopted on 27 March 1996 the Decision 96/239/EC which prohibits dispatch from the United Kingdom of live bovine animals and bovine products. In the Council of 22 June 1996, leading to the Florence Agreement, the preconditions for the step by step lifting of the prohibitions were set out. The implementation of an effective disease eradication plan, including selective slaughter of potentially exposed animals and culling of animals over 30 months of age and their destruction, is central in the preconditions. One of the main steps within the framework is a gradual removing of the export ban for animals and meat from certified herds, i.e. without a history of BSE and no exposure to infected meat and bone meal.
At the end of June 1996 the plan to eradicate BSE from the United Kingdom was adopted. Satisfactory progress to eradicate the disease has been made. At the peak of the epidemic, in 1992, 37 280 BSE cases were confirmed, last year a substantially reduced number of 3 396 BSE cases were confirmed. To date over 3 million cattle have been slaughtered and destroyed under the various programmes of the eradication plan.
The United Kingdom first put forward in February 1997 a proposal for an Export Certified Herds Scheme, with a view to lifting the restrictions. In the light of the opinion of the Scientific Veterinary Committee in June, the United Kingdom put forward a modified proposal in July 1997.
On 16 March 1998 the Council of Ministers adopted a decision which included the lifting of the export ban on beef and beef products arising from cattle in certified herds. The establishment of a date for exports to recommence is a Commission decision and was subject to a satisfactory outcome of a further inspection, which took place on 20-22 April. As the inspection report was presented to the Standing Veterinary Commission last week (19 May) the Commission considers that all of the conditions of the Florence agreement have been fulfilled and has therefore decided that exports can recommence on June 1st.
The Commission expects to be in a position to put a draft proposal to the Standing Veterinary Committee in the next few weeks regarding the lifting of the ban on beef and beef products derived from animals born after 1 August 1996, the date on which it is considered that the ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal to farm animals was fully effective in the United Kingdom.