FSA to discuss transition of BSE rules

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Bse, European union

The UK's food standards agency will meet next week to discuss a new
BSE testing system trialled earlier this year as part of a managed
transition towards replacing the Over Thirty Months Rule.

This rule, which was set up in 1996, automatically bans older cattle from entering the food chain.

The principal food safety measure - the Specified Risk Material (SRM) controls, which removes over 99 per cent of any infectivity in cattle - will remain in place, along with the Feed Ban control.

In July last year the agency advised Ministers that the OTM Rule was no longer proportionate to the risk, but should not change until an independent group had advised that a robust BSE testing system was in place. The government accepted the advice in December and asked the agency to advise on a robust system prior to rule change.

As a result, an Independent Group, chaired by Professor Patrick Wall, was set up by the FSA to oversee and advise on testing.

The Board will consider the Agency's advice to Ministers, taking into account the Independent Group's report on testing, the outcome of the EC's Food and Veterinary Office inspection of the UK's BSE controls in June and responses to a written consultation earlier this year.

It will also take into account feedback from the four open meetings held across the UK last week.

The number of BSE cases in the EU dropped to 850 positive tests for the brain-wasting disease in 2004 from 2,129 in 2002, when the bloc had 15 members compared to the current 25, the European Commission said.

The number of BSE cases found this year in European countries is falling dramatically, except for Spain.

The BSE epidemic was first recognised in the UK in 1986. At its peak in 1992, a total of 37,280 cases were discovered in UK cattle. So far this year the UK remains at the top of the BSE list, with 66 cases confirmed, indicating that the total for the year could fall by about 60 per cent. Spain has reported 52 cases so far this year, Ireland 37 cases and Portugal 13 cases. Germany and France have so far not reported any incidents of BSE.

Poland reported 11 cases of BSE last year and has so far discovered another 11 cases this year.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, Ireland found 126 cases of BSE in its cattle last year, compared with 137 found in Spain. The UK had the highest incidence of BSE cases in the world last year with 343 cases confirmed, followed by Spain, Ireland. Portugal is fourth in the BSE league, reporting 92 cases in 2004, followed by Germany with 65 cases. France reported 54 cases of BSE last year.

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