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Health and Consumer Protection

Press releases

Brussels, 29 January 2001

Report on Implementation of Latest BSE Control Measures in the Member States

WORKING DOCUMENT - DOES NOT NECESSARILY ENGAGE THE OPINION OF THE COMMISSION

On 4 January 2001, Commissioner Byrne wrote to all the Agriculture Ministers of the Member States, summarising recently introduced measures for the control of BSE and outlining anticipated developments in relation to the disease. The Commissioner informed the Ministers that Commission Services would shortly be requesting information concerning the implementation of the new measures in Member States. Following this letter, on 5 January 2001 the Commission distributed to Member States a questionnaire on the implementation of measures in relation to the control of BSE. The completed questionnaires were returned to the Commission in advance of the 16 January meeting of the Standing Veterinary Committee (Public Health). Each Member State gave an oral presentation at the meeting, addressing the points raised by the questionnaire. The meeting also gave the Commission an opportunity to clarify certain parts of their replies with the Member states. The following presents a summary of the replies.

The inspections carried out by the Food and Veterinary Office at this very moment will be used at a later stage to place the replies in a more general context.

1. Commission Decision 2000/418 on the removal of specified risk material
and measures at slaughter

Most Member States reported that the measures on removal of specified risk material (SRM), the prohibition on using ruminant skull and vertebral column for the production of mechanically recovered meat (MRM) and the ban on certain slaughter-techniques (pithing) were in force.

1.1. Specified Risk Materials

All Member States reported implementation of Decisions 2000/418/EC (removal of SRM) and 2001/2/EC (designating bovine intestine as SRM). There were problems in some Member States in regard to the volume of material being produced since the addition of bovine intestine to the SRM list. Some Member States have to store material pending an increase in their rendering/incineration capacity, others have to export SRM to other Member States for rendering or incineration. One Member State reported that SRM which has not been pressure-cooked is going for landfill.

1.2. Mechanically Recovered Meat

No Member State reported any significant problem on the enforcement of the ban on the production of MRM.

1.3. Slaughtering Techniques

Some Member states reported on their unsuccessful experimentation with the removal of vertebral column at slaughter plant level. Without major structural adaptation of the abattoirs slaughter would become impossible. Most Member States reported that pithing has ceased, but some concern was expressed about the implications of this move for operator safety in the smaller abattoirs. One Member State reported that due to difficulties in bringing smaller abattoirs into line, without threatening worker safety, the prohibition on pithing would not enter into force until April.

2. Rapid diagnostic tests

2.1. Testing of bovine animals "at risk"

Member States reported no specific difficulties in the testing of fallen and casualty animals, other than the pressure put on total testing capacity by the over 30 month testing. Some Member States are testing all fallen animals.

2.2. Testing of healthy bovine animals at slaughter

Testing capacity

Most Member States reported initial difficulties caused by short time period given for implementation of testing of over 30 month cattle, in terms of availability of test kits, training of personnel and approval of laboratories.

There have been problems in some laboratories with the field use of one of the tests. As this test had not previously been used at a large scale, these problems were not unexpected and are apparently mainly due to the lack of experience of the manufacturer and the laboratories. There appears to be a need to standardise test protocols.

The Commission Joint Research Centre, which originally evaluated the tests, will be mandated to follow the performance of the tests and the laboratory techniques.

Release of carcasses after a rapid test

All applicable Member States are either withholding the health mark until a negative result is obtained or in any case ensuring that no part of the animal goes for human consumption prior to a negative test. Some are operating the compulsory testing of animals for human consumption from 24, rather than 30 months. Member States vary in their views on how to handle carcasses that share the slaughter line with a positively tested animal. Some take no action on these carcasses, others operate a batch system, and destroy all the animals in the batch. The Member States requested harmonisation of the measures in this area.

2.3. Surveillance of bovine animals "purchased for destruction"

Some Member States are testing Purchase for Destruction (PFD) animals to obtain extra epidemiological information. All Member States reported that all PFD animals are examined ante-mortem; any such animals that present clinical signs are removed and treated as BSE suspects. Some Member States carry out post-mortem inspection also to capture data on Bovine Tuberculosis etc.

2.4. Overall test capacity

Full capacity to test all healthy, PFD, emergency and sick slaughtered animals is expected by mid February for most Member States. Only two Member States will not achieve this target before end March (see annexed table).

Member State

Total Capacity at 12/1/2001 (tests per week)

Anticipated Full capacity

Tests per Week

When

Be

8500

19200

End January

Da

9800

 

Already reached

De

37000

 

Already reached

Gr

500-700

2000

End March

Sp

7000

 

 

Fr

30000

45000

Mid February

Ir

15000

 

Already reached

It

3700

12000

Mid February

Lux

1200

 

Already reached

Ne

10000

14000

Already reached

Au

4500

 

Already reached

Pt

80

1600

END March

Fin

Histopath only, up to 16/1/01

400

February

Swe

500

 

Already reached

Uk

600

 

Already reached

3. Processed Animal Protein in Animal Feed

All Member States with the exception of one reported that the provisions of Council Decision 2000/766/EC and Commission Decision 2001/9/EC are legally in force, or will shortly be transposed. The legal requirements also cover the recall of processed animal protein from mills, intermediaries, farms, etc. One Member State reported that it proposes to legally implement the prohibition on April 1. The Commission expressed its concern at this delay.

3.1. Prohibition on use of processed animal protein in certain animal feeds

Most Member States reported difficulties in relation to the short time span for introduction of the measures. Some Member States reported uncertainty on certain aspects of the measures e.g. on whether the inclusion in feedstuffs of catering waste containing gelatine was prohibited, on what to do with imports of fishmeal from third countries that occurred just before the introduction of the new legislation.

3.2. Recall of products already on the market

In general Member States reported that the recall is in progress but will take some time to complete. Few Member States reported that they were doing any extra testing for the presence of MBM in recalled stocks of ruminant feed, above the normal routine monitoring of such feeds. All Member States reported that they had informed the feedstuffs and farming industries of the prohibition, and of the need to withdraw existing feedstuffs containing prohibited protein from circulation.

3.3. Storage and disposal of processed animal protein and recalled feed

Some Member states reported that they intend to dispose of processed animal protein by incineration; others are ordering that animal feed be destroyed in specified ways by the individual operators that are in possession of them; others have authorised the use of this material for the feeding of non-food producing animals.

3.4. Control measures on certain animal proteins

Some Member States expressed uncertainty on the definition of a plant as mentioned in Article 2 of decision 2001/9/EC i.e. what degree of separation is necessary. Small plants producing e.g. pet food and fish feed on a rotational basis are obviously hard hit by the measures. Concern was expressed about how to detect the presence of products such as gelatine and certain hydrolysed proteins in feed. A number of Member States provided detailed information on quantities of processed animal protein exported in recent years to third countries.

4. Controls on Tallow

All Member States reported that Decision 1999/534/EC on the processing of animal waste is in force or will be transposed shortly. All Member States reported that their tallow production either meets the filtration or heat treatment standards of Article 2.1, or is subject to derogation e.g. going for incineration or being used for the production of tallow derivatives according to the extreme standards of Annex II.

5. Research

A number of Member States gave information on recent and ongoing research projects into TSEs.

6. Follow-up of the opinion of the Scientific Steering Committee

6.1. Opinion

On 12 January 2001, the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) advising the European Commission on issues related to BSE published an opinion with its replies to the questions raised at the EU Council of Agriculture Ministers of December 4. The questions concerned the safety of certain bovine tissues and animal by-products that might pose a BSE risk. The scientists concluded that some further restrictions on the use of bovine tissues could be necessary whenever the risk management measures in place in the past did not ensure that the presence of BSE is highly unlikely.

The scientists indicate that mechanically recovered meat that is scraped from bovine bones, is to be considered a risk material if obtained from skull and vertebral bones of animals more than 12 months old. However, concern is also raised about the practicality of distinguishing between bones from animals over various ages and bone fragments of different bones.

They also advise that fats derived from cattle tissues should be subject to pressure cooking to minimise potential BSE infectivity before being used in animal feed in addition to the purification process already in place which filter proteins. The scientists reconfirmed that hydrolysed proteins derived from bovine hides and other tissues that are not specified risk materials are safe provided the appropriate production and sourcing processes are used.

According to the SSC, cattle born before the effective implementation of the total meat and bone meal ban (MBM ban), or animals born while a total meat and bone meal ban is not properly implemented, are likely to pose a higher risk, which could justify further restrictions on the use of animal tissues. This could include the vertebral column of cattle above 12 months. It excludes cattle thymus and spleen.

All depends on the assessment of how likely it is that cattle arriving at slaughter are infected with BSE. This likelihood needs to be assessed in the light of the risk management measures in place.

6.2. Follow-up

As a follow up to the above opinion, the Commission is considering the following measures:

  • to allow the use of hydrolysed proteins prepared from certain materials as feed for non-ruminant animals
  • compulsory heat treatment of tallow intended for animal feed, in addition to the rules on tallow already in place (including compulsory filtration)
  • rules on raw material allowed to be used for the production of tallow destined for milk-replacers for ruminants
  • a ban on the production of MRM from all ruminant bones of all ages (for control reasons)

There will be no proposal to designate thymus and spleen as SRM.

With respect to vertebral column the starting position is that bovine vertebrae should be removed above a certain level of risk. Where an MBM ban appears not to have been effective, vertebrae should be removed from food and feed.

The generalisation of tests provides a new instrument to establish whether the MBM bans of the past were effective. The Commission will therefore give a high priority to assessing, forthwith, the situations in the Member States on the basis of test results. To this end the Commission will follow, evaluate and analyse the epidemiological information and laboratory protocols in the Member States and recommend a proper follow up.

In the meantime, the conditions under which Member States might require that vertebrae are removed from beef born, raised, slaughtered or cut on its territory will be kept under continuous scrutiny. In any event, such a requirement may only be implemented on a national basis on a non-discriminatory basis. This implies that import restrictions on bone-in carcasses may only apply whenever Member States remove vertebral column at the level of the abattoir.

7. Unilateral measures related to BSE as at 23 January 2001

7.1. Measures in place

FRANCE

  • thymus and spleen included in the list of specified risk materials
  • a prohibition to sell meat-on-the-vertebrae
  • Ban on the use of fat derived from bones in human food and animal feed

ITALY

  • temporary ban (3 months) of non-deboned meat from France
  • ban of import of live cattle over 18 months from France
    (lifted)
  • ban of ovas and embryos from France (lifted)

SPAIN

  • ban of import of live cattle over 20 months from France and Ireland
  • ban of ovas and embryos from France and Ireland

AUSTRIA

  • ban of import of live cattle over 20 months from France
  • ban of embryos and semen from France
  • ban of import of live cattle, beef, embryos and semen from Germany
  • ban of import of live cattle, embryos and semen from Italy

GREECE

  • ban of import of live cattle over 20 months from France (lifted)
  • ban of ovas and embryos from France (lifted)
  • removal of vertebral column from French carcasses in cutting plant or at retail level in Greece

NETHERLANDS

  • French live cattle over 1 year shall be tested (lifted)
  • ban of French MBM, fat and feed containing these materials.

GERMANY

  • ban on the use of all animal fat and all animal protein for farmed animals

7.2. Action by the Commission

The scientific justification submitted by Italy, Spain, Austria, Netherlands and Greece as regards the import of live bovine animals, bovine embryos and ova and bovine semen from France and Ireland was assessed by the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) in December. The overall assessment was that the measures were not justified on a scientific basis. Following the opinion of the SSC, the Commission sent a letter to the Member States concerned asking them to lift the measures. Italy, Greece and the Netherlands have now notified that the measures on live bovine animals, bovine embryos and ova and bovine semen are lifted.

Following a letter from the Commission, Austria has submitted a scientific justification for its measures against Germany. This justification will be evaluated by the SSC. Austria will also be requested to submit a scientific justification for its measures against Italy.

On 12 January 2001, the SSC published its opinion on the measures as regards thymus, spleen, vertebral column and fat. The Commission is now reflecting on the follow-up action and will decide on its next steps in the light of the information supplied by the Member States and the discussions in the Council on 29 January.

8. Other Measures

The Commission will shortly undertake a further series of inspections by the Food and Veterinary Office to review implementation of the Community measures in force. In addition, the Commission is considering a measure to require Member States to submit regular monthly reports on the application of the protective measures taken against BSE in accordance with national and Community provisions. The United Kingdom and Portugal currently provide such reports to the Commission, consequent to Decisions 98/256/EC and 98/653/EC (the UK and Portugal BSE embargoes), which have proven very useful in monitoring the effectiveness of implementation of protective measures.

Finally, work is continuing in all Community institutions aimed at urgent agreement on current legislative proposals for regulations of the Council and Parliament on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), on animal by-products and on a European Food Authority. A range of other important initiatives aimed at improving food safety, outlined in the White Paper of January 2000, are also currently before the Council and Parliament. These include in particular measures on the marketing of compound feedingstuffs, on official inspections in animal nutrition and on undesirable substances in animal nutrition.

Released on 29/01/2001

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