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Health and Consumer Protection

Speeches Commissioner Byrne

Speech by David Byrne, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, to European Parliament on BSE - Parliamentary session, Strasbourg, 15 November 2000 - Supplementary Speaking Note on Meat and Bone Meal

A number of speakers have raised the issue of a total ban on meat and bone meal. Let me add a few comments to what I said earlier in this respect.

In the situation confronting us, it is always tempting to look to a magic solution. A solution which can in one step both eliminate risk and restore confidence. I have gone on record in stating that I will be fully transparent with consumers. This includes, in my view, the responsibility not to mislead them into believing that there are magic solutions to a very difficult problem. A total ban on meat and bone meal is such a case.

My only concern in relation to the use of MBM is whether it is safe or not to use in animal feed. I leave it to others to make the economic and environmental case for its continued use. In relation to its safety, let me repeat that there is an extensive range of controls already in place to ensure that MBM does not pose a threat of transmission of BSE:

  • mammalian MBM cannot be fed to ruminants, notably cattle;
  • SRMs are excluded from the raw material used in MBM;
  • Animal waste used in MBM must be pressure cooked ("133 degrees/3 bar/20 minutes);
  • Surveillance measures are in place to ensure that BSE animals do not enter the feed chain and that these controls are applied.

The scientific advice is that MBM produced under these controls is not a danger.

This Parliament also accepts that there is a place for MBM produced under safe conditions. In fact, Parliament acknowledged in its report on BSE in 1997 that "the recycling of carcasses and slaughter waste by the production of MBM (for animal feed) offers the best alternative on economic, environmental and health policy grounds".

As I stated earlier, however, the safe use of MBM is conditional on the required controls being respected and implemented in full. If there is a weakness in the controls, clearly there is a problem. I am insisting once more that Member States – all of them – accept their responsibilities in this respect. The Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office will re-double its efforts to ensure that Member States respect their obligations.

I might add that if the French decision to ban MBM is motivated by fears over the adequacy of their controls, it is a decision I fully endorse. I welcome, in this respect, that Prime Minister Jospin yesterday also announced a substantial strengthening of controls on the food chain, including a big increase in staff.

I will be asking Member States, on Monday, if there are concerns that weaknesses in the implementation of controls over the past several years, in contravention of the Community legislation in the matter, is a factor in the current increased incidence of BSE.

Finally, I might add that the Commission has recently presented a proposal to Parliament, under co-decision, for a regulation on animal waste. This proposal aims at putting in place a Community framework which will address all relevant issues governing the treatment of animal waste, especially its use in animal feed.

It is notable that in the discussions which have taken place already on this proposal with the Member States, a ban on the feeding of MBM to animals has not been suggested as a necessary measure. Instead, the consensus view is that the Community must ensure that only material from animals fit for human consumption should be used in the production of MBM. It remains to be seen if this changes in the light of current events.

Let me recall, in this respect, that I succeeded only five months ago in securing the Council’s agreement to a ban on the use of specified risk materials in the food and feed chains. Yes, difficult as it is to believe, it took four years to agree a measure which I consider to be fundamental to public health protection. The obstacles to securing support for a ban on MBM should be viewed in this light.

Let me assure you, however, that if and when I am of the view that a ban on the feeding of MBM to all animals is a necessary measure to protect public health, I will present such a proposal, irrespective of the obstacles.

Parliament, itself, now has its opportunity to decisively shape the future direction of policy towards waste at the Community level. All options are open in this proposal on animal waste, including a total ban. I await your report and suggested amendments and assure you of my full co-operation for suggested improvements.

Thank you again for your attention.


Speeches Commissioner Byrne



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