on Testing for BSE in Third Countries of David Byrne,
European Commissioner responsible for Health and Consumer
Protection at the Agriculture Council in Luxembourg on 19
I have some sympathy for the suggestion
that testing requirements should be extended to third
countries. However, it might be helpful if I outline some
background information in this respect.
Jean Glavanys request results from a
very obvious observation: there is a discrepancy between
the testing requirements for Member States and those
required of third countries. This is indeed the case. In
particular, there is no requirement that meat imported to
the EU derived from bovines aged over 30 months must be
However, I want to make absolutely clear
that there are measures in place to ensure that our
consumers are not at risk. Live bovines imported to the EU
must of course be tested at slaughter if aged over 30
months. Meat and meat products from third countries must
also be accompanied by certification to the effect that the
SRMs have been removed and that they have been slaughtered
in accordance with the required Community standards.
This is a hugely important safeguard. As
I repeatedly point out, removal of SRM is far and away the
most important protective measure for public health
protection. Member States already have the means at their
disposal, therefore, to ensure that imported bovines and
meat and meat products are safe.
The absence of testing in third
countries does however weaken the epidemiological
information on their true situation with respect to BSE. In
this respect, let me recall that the current
classification, in both Member States and Third Countries,
was a Commission initiative. It has been a very difficult
and controversial exercise. The findings of the SSC have
been strongly disputed, by both Member States and Third
I have literally a queue of Ambassadors
and Ministers from Third Countries calling on me in
relation to the geographical risk assessment. Invariably,
it is to complain that the assessments are flawed or wrong.
I have defended the work of the SSC in this respect and
will continue to do so because it has already proved its
worth. I have also encouraged the countries concerned to
implement much more thorough surveillance systems,
including the introduction of testing for BSE.
I believe that progress is being made in
this respect. Let me remind you in this respect that our
estimates suggest that about 85% of imports are from
countries in category I of the geographical risk assessment
exercise. There is no suggestion that these countries
should be required to carry out testing, although I would
encourage it as part of their surveillance efforts.
The remaining imports 15% or so - come
overwhelmingly from category III countries which are for
the most part in Central and Eastern Countries. They are
already taking measures to introduce testing. For example,
Slovenia and the Czech Republic are already testing all
bovines aged over 30 months at slaughter. Hungary and
Poland are introducing testing on a more targetted basis on
at risk animals.
If these tests lead to the detection of
BSE, as has already happened in the Czech Republic, I
consider it inevitable that testing of animals aged over 30
months will be introduced. The case for introducing such
testing before a case of BSE has been found is more
difficult to justify.
Member States might recall their own
opposition to widespread testing when the Commission tabled
its proposals early last year. In addition, the scientific
justification for large scale testing and its corresponding
legitimacy in terms of trade arrangements is not 100%
This is perhaps not as rapid progress as
some of you might wish. But we should not forget either
that these countries are in a much more difficult position
than the Member States of the EU. They lack the resources
and the manpower to carry out testing on the scale
currently in place in the EU. As I already stated, I am
encouraging them to do more.
A consistent demand is that the
Community should provide financial assistance towards
testing. These countries point out that if they do indeed
have BSE, it has been imported from the EU. And that the
likely causes, infected animals and meat and bone meal,
were always certified as not presenting any risk of BSE.
They have asked for a degree of solidarity from their
prospective EU partners to allow them to set in place
adequate surveillance systems.
In summary, therefore, the Commission
will continue to press third countries to make further
progress in the introduction of testing, especially of at
risk categories. I will keep you updated on developments in
this regard. In the meantime I would ask that the existing
controls on imports be strictly implemented as they ensure
through the removal of SRMs that our consumers are not at
Thank you for your attention.
FOOD SAFETY |
DIRECTORATE GENERAL "HEALTH
& CONSUMER PROTECTION"