20 November 1998

Fischler tries once more for EU-wide SRM removal

By Philip Clarke

EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler is making a fresh attempt to get specified risk materials, such as brain and spinal cord, removed from the human food chain in all EU member states.

Twice in the past year farm ministers have rejected his plans for EU-wide controls for beef and sheep SRMs, with particularly strong opposition coming from countries such as Germany and Austria, which claim never to have had a native case of BSE.

Other countries, such as the UK and Ireland, have complained that by taking unilateral action their meat industries are burdened with unfair additional costs.

To try to appease all sides, the new SRM proposal breaks the EU down into four categories based on the level of risk of BSE.

Countries which make it into Category 1, (zero risk), will not have to remove any SRMs. But those in Category 4, (high risk), will have to destroy the full range, including vertebral column, intestines (from the duodenum to the rectum) and all bones from animals over six months of age.

To determine which category each member state falls into, governments will have to supply the EU Commission with detailed information on the incidence of BSE and the measures already taken to control the disease.

In the absence of a submission, Brussels will decide which category each member state should be put into.

"In the past, some governments have refused to even talk about SRM controls," says Helene Judge, Meat and Livestock Commission representative in Brussels. "This now at least gives them an incentive to come forward with more information."

As a further sweetener, carcasses may be exempt from the SRM controls altogether, should a test for BSE be developed that is able to prove that a slaughtered animal was free from the disease. Several post-mortem tests are being evaluated in Belgium, with the findings expected next spring.

The new rules are due to take effect from Oct 1, 1999, and will also apply to non-EU countries that are looking to export beef into the EU market. &#42