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Food and Feed Safety (05-10-2005)

Commission decision to allow return of beef on the bone backed by member states

A Commission proposal to raise the age limit at which the vertebral column must be removed from beef was endorsed by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) today. This effectively paves the way for beef on the bone, such as the Italian Fiorentina steak or T-bone steak, to be produced again in the EU. The decision, based on scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), increases the threshold at which the vertebral column of slaughtered cattle must be removed from 12 to 24 months. This is the first decision related to changing certain EU BSE measures since the publication of the Commission’s TSE Roadmap in July.

Since October 2000, the vertebral column has been part of the EU list of Specified Risk Material (SRM), considered to pose the greatest risk of BSE transmission. Under EU BSE legislation, all SRM has been required to be removed and destroyed in bovine animals over 12 months, to prevent it entering the food and feed chain. Due to this, and other stringent risk reducing measures, there has been a significant decline in the number of positive BSE cases detected in the EU over the past few years.and the age of those positive cases has steadily increased. These positive developments led the Commission to reflect on possible amendments of certain TSE measures in place, with a view to updating them in line with the improved situation.

In April 2005, EFSA published an opinion supporting an increase in the age limit for bovine vertebral column removal, and stating that even up to 30 months could be considered a considerably safe limit. On the basis of this opinion, and taking into account the views of Member States and Parliament, the Commission proposed 24 months as the most practical age limit to allow the highest safety margin against BSE. This threshold may be reconsidered again in the future, if the downward trend in BSE numbers continues. The TSE Roadmap also puts forward the possibility of revising other SRM rules in the near/medium term, based on the evolving BSE situation and latest scientific knowledge.

The higher age limit for vertebral column removal is expected to have a positive impact on the competitiveness of farmers and meat industries, and to reduce the amount of SRM waste generated in the EU.

For more information on EU BSE measures, see:
http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/food/biosafety/bse/index_en.htm