Europe’s ban on the use of pig and poultry meat and bonemeal should be lifted, to release more grain for human consumption as so ease the world food crisis, according to head of the European Food Safety Authority, Patrick Wall.

In an interview with The Times newspaper, Prof Wall said there was no scientific reason to maintain the ban for non-ruminants, adding that it was “morally and ethically” wrong to feed grain and soya to animals when humans were starving.

His comments have been welcomed by the British Meat Processors Association.

“At a time when we are taking our environmental responsibilities seriously, it is a great shame that we are currently having to dispose of what is a valuable protein source.” said BMPA president Mark Adams.

“However in discussing how to take forward any change to the current rules it is vital that any relevant safeguard and additional controls are robustly applied by all involved to ensure that food safety and consumer confidence is maintained.”

A spokeswoman for the European Food Safety Authority in Parma, Italy told FWi that Prof Wall was talking to The Times in a personal capacity, and not as chairman of EFSA. “His views go beyond EFRA’s remit.”

But she added that EFSA had issued an opinion last November confirming that, in its opinion, there was nothing wrong with feeding pig protein to poultry and poultry protein to pigs. “The risk to humans in negligible,” she said.

The EU introduced a ban on feeding animal protein to livestock in 2001, following the spread of BSE across Europe in the 1990s.

The EU Commission is understood to be reconsidering the ban with regards pigs and poultry in response to the EFSA opinion.

There is no question of any relaxation of the ban on mammalian protein for ruminants.