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Food Safety



Use of processed animal proteins in animal feed


Since the beginning of the 1996 BSE crises, a number of Community measures have been adopted on the production of animal-based feed ingredients. Community legislation is now fully in line with the most recent scientific advice in this area. The proposals for a Regulation on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies and for a Regulation on Animal by-products not intended for human consumption re-cast this Community legislation and create a complete legal framework for this sector.

According to the results of Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) missions carried out in all Member States from 1996 to date, the following conclusions can be drawn:

- Following major economic investments, all EU rendering plants producing mammalian proteins destined for farm animal feed, are now equipped to operate in accordance with the pressure cooking standards established in April 1997;

- The level of official controls on this industry has significantly increased after the first round of FVO inspections in 1996-1997, but is still considered generally insufficient;

- The implementation of the mammalian to ruminant feed ban and of the removal of Specified Risk Material needs substantial improvements. However, significant progress has been made by some Member States in these areas. In particular, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland have put in place effective preventive measures to avoid cross-contamination of ruminant feed with mammalian animal proteins.

Decision 2000/766/EC establishes a suspension until 30.6.2001 on the feeding of animal proteins to farmed animals. According to Article 4 of this Decision, this total feed ban shall be adapted by the Commission in the light of the results of Community inspections and the incidence of BSE.

Additional FVO missions and more results of the BSE rapid tests are needed to provide factual information of the effectiveness of Community and national rules on BSE. In these circumstances, the Commission will need to consider if it is premature and inappropriate to lift the suspension currently in place. This decision will be informed by the views of the Agriculture Council in the matter.

A clear option is to extend the suspension until the adoption and implementation of the Proposal for a Council and EP Regulation on animal by-products not intended for human consumption (COM 574). This proposal will establish rules for the production of feed ingredients of animal origin exclusively derived from animals fit for human consumption and strict control measures for the disposal of material unfit for human consumption. These rules are scientifically justified and, therefore, defendable in the WTO, and are expected to be supported by the European Parliament and by the Economic and Social Committee. They also provide a Community framework for the safe use and disposal of animal by-products. This is clearly preferable to the present situation of divergent national systems which leave consumers exposed to unacceptable risks.

A total permanent ban of the feeding of animal proteins to farmed animals may be appealing from several viewpoints, but it would imply recognition of the failure of Member States, industry and agricultural interests to implement basic Community legislation. It would also surrender the benefits of all the efforts and investments made by Member States and the industry in the last 4 years to improve standards.

A permanent ban would also raise the question of equivalent measures concerning the importation of animal products from third countries.


Article 4 of Decision 2000/766/EC establishes that the feed ban may be adapted, by the Commission before 30 June 2001, to the situation of each Member State in the light of the results of Community inspections and the incidence of BSE, based on the results of BSE monitoring, with particular reference to testing of bovine animals over 30 months of age, as established by Commission Decision 2000/764/EC.


During the year 2000, several missions have been carried out by the FVO in the field of BSE to Member States.

The scope of these missions was to assess the performance of Member States' competent authorities regarding the implementation of the main BSE Community measures, particularly, Decisions 98/272/EC 1 , 94/381/EC 2 , and 2000/418/EC 3 .

Although final reports of most of these missions are not yet available, the following preliminary conclusions can be drawn:

1. Decision 94/381 (Ban on feeding mammalian proteins to ruminants)

Until January 2001, cross-contamination was widespread in many Member States. Problems of this nature were identified in almost every Member States and this was due to an inefficient application of preventive measures. Moreover, a certain level of contamination (below 0.5% in MBM content) was tolerated in nearly all Member States visited despite the fact that Community legislation does not allow any tolerance.

There were exceptions. In Denmark feed mills using mammalian animal proteins are not permitted to produce ruminant feed; similarly, in the Netherlands a zero tolerance policy has led to the separation of facilities (ruminants Vs non-ruminants) since March 1999; finally, Ireland has implemented since 1996 a specific licensing system which proved relatively efficient.

As regards the checks and controls to be carried out by the relevant official services, the overall impression is that there is much room for improvement. Some of the main deficiencies in this respect were:

- Sampling insufficient and/or not targeted;

- Feedback to plants inefficient or absent;

- Corrective actions late and insufficient;

- Lack of co-operation with veterinary services in charge of BSE surveillance;

- Checks at the level of farms (including home compounders) and intermediaries very limited.

2. Decision 2000/418 (Removal of Specified Risk Material -SRM)

Besides being the most important health measure to ensure safety of beef and derived food products, removal and destruction of SRMs is an imperative safeguard in relation to the safe use of animal proteins in feedingstuffs. Provisions for the implementation of the decision had been made by all Member States visited. However, there were deficiencies in almost all cases in the following areas:

- Removal, particularly for the spinal cord where because of the risk of dissemination during the splitting of the carcass, additional supervision and control was required but was not always present; there were also specific problems related to the de-boning of heads in some Member States.

- Staining was generally inefficient although it seems that there are technical difficulties which require further discussion.

- Handling, storage and separation were frequently insufficient or inappropriate and entailed obvious risks of mixing SRM with other kinds of waste;

- Destruction and reconciliation, in most of the Member States visited a properly documented system which could ensure the control of SRM from the removal point to the point of destruction was not in place.

- Control and supervision need to be reinforced at all levels (plants, inspectors, competent authorities).

3. Legislative follow-up

In the light of the above, the following legislative follow-up will lead to improvements:

- More precise and detailed Community provisions regarding issues such as cross-contamination and controls and checks to be carried out by the official services are essential for a correct implementation of the ban of feeding mammalian proteins to ruminants in the Member States.

- Community legislation on SRM providing for more detailed provisions regarding implementation particularly in areas such as official controls and reconciliation..

The above legislative actions are being addressed in the framework of the forthcoming Regulation on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies and Regulation on Animal by-products not intended for human consumption.


The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) has adopted a number of opinions related to the safety of animal by-products, including animal feed. None of those scientific opinions recommends a ban of feeding animal proteins to farmed animals other than ruminants, provided that certain conditions are fulfilled (i.e. removal of SRM, use of raw material derived from animals fit for human consumption for production of feed ingredients, pressure cooking standards). All these conditions are now contained in the current Community legislation and they are being recast in the Regulation on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies and Regulation on Animal by-products not intended for human consumption.


During January and February, some 900 000 rapid tests were carried out in the EU. More than 800 000 of these were carried out on healthy slaughtered animals. The other tests were carried out on dead-on-farm animals, emergency slaughtered animals, sick animals and animals slaughtered as a BSE eradication measure. 98 positive BSE cases were detected following rapid post mortem testing, whereas 167 BSE cases were detected in animals reported as BSE suspects. Positive BSE cases were found in all Member States except Greece, Luxembourg, Austria, Finland and Sweden.

To the end of February, some 1400 BSE cases born after the Community-wide feed ban in August 1994 have been reported, 400 of which were reported in Member States other than the UK. The majority of these were born in 1994-1995. Some 70 BSE cases born in 1996, three cases born in 1997 (Italy, Spain and Denmark) and two cases born in 1998 (Germany) have been reported. All Member States except Greece, Luxembourg, Austria, Finland and Sweden have reported BSE cases born after the Community-wide feed ban in 1994. A cumulative table of the results of BSE testing from January to February 2001 is provided in Annex I.

A more in-depth analysis can be made when more results become available and when testing is carried out on a more representative basis to provide statistical validity. In particular, this data should provide factual information of the effectiveness of Community and national rules on BSE and will identify Member States where BSE recycling via animal by-products has occurred.


There is an on-going discussion on the feed ban in other EU institutions.

On 9 March 2001, the Economic and Social Committee (ESC) organised a wide-ranging hearing on BSE topical aspects, including the feed ban. In the light of this hearing, the opinion of the Section for Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment of ESC is that the proposed Regulation on animal by-products and the TSE Regulation 'lay solid foundations for a farsighted, well-balanced solution for the future use of animal by-products...., including feedingstuffs'.

In its Resolution on BSE and safety of animal feedingstuffs of 16 November 2000, the European Parliament, called for a ban of the feeding of animal meal to farmed animals until Member States could guarantee the implementation of existing Community legislation on BSE (i.e. pressure cooking standards, removal of SRM) and until the exclusion of fallen stock proposed by the Commission (i.e. Regulation on animal by-products) enters into force.

In its draft opinion on the Proposal for a Regulation on animal by-products, the EP Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development endorses the Commission proposal. There is a good prospect that this approach will be shared by the EP Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy and the Parliament as a whole.


The lifting of the feed ban in the limited number of Member States for which the FVO has indicated satisfactory implementation of the feed ban might be considered. However, this option would be difficult to implement in the framework of the single market.

(a) adoption by Council and EP and implementation by Member States of the Regulation on animal by-products not intended for human consumption; in particular, this Regulation will establish

- the principle that only animal by-products derived from animals fit for human consumption may be used for animal feed;

- a complete separation during collection and transport of animal waste not intended for animal feed;

- a complete separation of rendering plants dedicated to feed production from rendering plants processing other animal waste;

- stricter rules for traceability of animal by-products, including the control of movements of SRM by a record keeping system and accompanying documents or health certificates, and markers for animal proteins and fats intended for destruction;

(b) destruction of all stocks of animal proteins and feed containing them, in order to ensure that only animal proteins produced in accordance with the above new set of rules will be used as ingredients in feedingstuffs after the lifting of the current total ban.

The following benefits would arise from this approach:

- the continuation of the ban will allow the on-going political debate in the European Parliament and Economic and Social Committee to be completed;

- this approach is scientifically justified and therefore defendable in WTO;

- the important risks to health from the disposal of 16 million tonnes of animal by-products, without adequate Community safeguards, would be addressed;

- the environmental and economic repercussions will be reduced, as only 2 million tons of material derived from animals unfit for human consumption (compared to the 16 million tons of animal by-products in case of a total ban) would need to be disposed of.

The objections to a total permanent ban of the feeding of animal proteins to farmed animals are the following:

a) Environmental consequences

- A complete permanent ban implies that 16 millions tons of animal by-products produced yearly shall be destroyed. Even if the proposal for an EP and Council Regulation on animal by-products (COM 574) introduces a number of alternatives which could limit the negative environmental impact (ex. burning animal proteins and fats as fuel, biogas, composting), in the short to medium term, incineration will be the most common way of disposal together with landfill, with unavoidable environmental consequences;

b) Animal health/welfare

- Animal health problems have been reported as a consequence of the sudden switch from animal to vegetable proteins, especially in young animals in intensive farming (i.e. day old chicks and piglets);

- As pigs and poultry are not 'vegetarians', substitutes for some essential amino acids only available in animal proteins will have to be found in synthetic amino acids;

c) Economic effects

The complete ban on use of animal meal would have the following economic impacts:

- Farmers will lose the value of the by-products. Total revenue from the sale of by-products, including the value added by the rendering industry is estimated in the order of 1.5 bn €;

- The cost of replacing the by-products by other feed ingredients is estimated in the order of 0.7 bn €;

- There will be important additional imports of replacement protein crops from third countries, including GMO soya.

- The cost to dispose of all animal by-products is estimated in the order of 3 bn €.

d) WTO trade implications/Imports from third countries

According to the longstanding EC policy, neither a lower level of health protection nor a more favourable treatment of third countries than Member States, can be accepted. As a consequence, pressures for a ban on the importation of products of animal origin from third countries would arise unless the products are derived from animals which were never fed animal proteins. While there may be strong political, ethical and control reasons for such a ban in the EU, these arguments would be strongly contested by third countries in respect of their exports to the EU. Moreover, such a ban is not currently in place in any country in the world and is not scientifically justified.


1 Epidemio-surveillance for Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies

2 Prohibition of feeding mammalian proteins to ruminant animals

3 Specified Risk Material





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