UK beef supply set to resume after EU report

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Uk, European union

The European Commission yesterday endorsed the UK's control
measures on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), opening the
door for the resumption of supplies of beef to the rest of the EU
by nextyear.

In a new evaluation report the Commission says the UK has met the two conditions that the European Commission set out in order for discussions on lifting the embargo to begin with member states. The report signals the UK can resume beef exports worldwide by early next year. The relaxation on exports of British beef will give hope to the bloc's food companies that they will have wideraccess to supplies, possibly bringing down costs. Under the EU's 1996 rules British beef cannot be exported to the rest of Europe from any animal more than 30 months old. The embargo, in effect since 1996, also prohibits the UK from exporting beefon the bone. Before the BSE crisis in 1986, the UK's beef exports were worth about £1bn (€1.5bn) compared to £20m (€29m) last year, according to Food from Britain, a consultancy. The favourable inspection reported on the success of the UK's BSE prevention efforts. Inspectors evaluated measures concerning both active and passive surveillance of BSE, the removal and handlingof specified risk material (SRM), the ban on feeding processed animal proteins to farmed animals, exceptions applicable to the total feed ban, and the system for identification and registration ofbovine animals. Overall, the report concluded that satisfactory progress was made in most areas. However inspectors continue to be concerned about the testing of animals that die on farms. The Commission noted that the incidents of BSE continues to fall within the UK. New measures being brought in by the government are gradually bringing the country into line with the EU rules. For example, the UK put in place a rule to ensure that no animal older than 30 months could enter the food chain. Older animals are considered to have a higher risk of having BSE. As of 7 November 2005, the UK is replacing the rule with a the testing system used in the other EU countries. This means older animals can enter the food chain, subject to a rigorous BSE testingscheme. Unlike other member states, the UK will continue to permanently ban all animals born before 1 August 1996 from the food and feed chain. This means that at the end of their productive life, these animals must be destroyed. Animals born in the UK after 1 August 1996 are considered to be at no higher risk of developing BSE thananimals in other EU countries, the Commission stated. The EU's main method of consumer protection, the removal of specified risk material (SRM) like the brain, tonsils and spinal cords, will remain in place. The removal of SRM was made mandatory on 1October 2000. The incidence of BSE in the UK has fallen sharply to 343 in 2004 from a peak of 37,280 cases in 1992. Most of the BSE-infected cattle were born before 1996. BSE was first identified in the UKin 1986. In total, more than 183,000 cases have been confirmed in the UK, of which more than 95 per cent were detected before 2000. As a condition for re-opening the UK market again the Commission said the incidence of BSE in the UK must be below 200 cases per million animals per year. The condition was met during the secondhalf of 2004 and confirmed in February 2005. The second condition was a favourable inspection visit by the Commission's food and veterinary inspectors. The inspectors visited the UK in June 2005. The report was discussed with member statesyesterday. External links to companies or organisations mentioned in this story: European Commission

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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