30 May 1997

BSEconference

THE UK is to hold an international scientific and veterinary conference on BSE during its European presidency next year.

Farm minister, Jack Cunningham, announced the move on Wednesday, saying it was vital science was at the forefront of the BSE debate. But he declined to comment on whether the UK beef ban will have been lifted by then.

Dr Cunningham was concerned that imported meat including specified risk materials was being consumed in the UK, adding that he had asked the SEAC committee to investigate the implications for human health.

He said he had urged both EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, and EU consumer affairs commissioner, Emma Bonino, to adopt uniform measures on specified risk materials across the EU.

With the UK still uncovering 100 cases of BSE a week, the first steps forward were to restore customer confidence, continue bilateral discussions and talks to MEPs about how the UK was meeting the Florence Agreement.

Frustrated by delays in bringing forward the certified herd scheme proposals and adopting the selective cull, Dr Cunningham said he wanted to accelerate both schemes.

And he also stressed his preference for an electronic computer database rather than a paper-based tracing system, which might have to be updated within a few years.