Food Law News - UK - 1999

4 February 1999: BEEF - Review in Six Months on Beef Bones Controls

MAFF News Release (43/99), 4 February 1999

Review in Six Months on Beef Bones Controls

The Chief Medical Officer has advised the Government that the beef bones controls should be reviewed again in six months time. His advice followed the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee's (SEAC's) recent scientific assessment of the risks involved. Accepting the advice in full, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said in London today: "It is encouraging that the CMO sees grounds for hoping that the situation will improve, and, if we can, consistent with a further assessment of the medical and scientific evidence, we will lift the ban after the review recommended by the CMO for six months time."

The CMO, Professor Liam Donaldson, provided his advice to the Government in a comprehensive memorandum. He concluded that a public health intervention now to lift the Beef Bones Regulations 1997 would allow that element of the food hazard which was originally eliminated (albeit reduced in magnitude) to pose a renewed, though very small risk. He therefore recommended that the existing controls should continue for the time being.

Given the anticipated further decline in the number of BSE infected cattle during 1999, the CMO has recommended that the controls should be reviewed six months on from 1 February 1999, paying particular attention to specific points he has identified in his advice. He also asked that during 1999 an analysis of the age structure of new cases of BSE be conducted, that the success of control measures be audited and new predictions of the incidence of the disease be made. In addition, he committed himself to continue work on providing estimates of risk in terms which will allow greater public understanding of the level of risk compared to other potential hazards, and ensure that new cases of nvCJD continue to be carefully monitored.

Mr Brown said: "as we have made clear throughout, the beef bones controls were put in place to protect public health from the risk of nvCJD and will only be lifted in the light of scientific and medical advice. It is encouraging that the CMO sees grounds for hoping that the situation will improve sufficiently to warrant a further review in six months time."

Mr Brown acknowledged that the delay will disappoint many people, "but the need to protect public health and retain confidence in beef and beef products remains the Government's paramount concern. My colleagues and I continue to expect that the Beef Bones Regulations 1997 will be complied with fully and enforced."

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