13 September 2000
Food agency urges action on BSE

by Alistair Driver

The Food Standards Agency has urged the European Commission to act to prevent the risk of BSE being spread in feed mills across the continent.

Agency officials tackle the issue of meat imports in a draft report, published this week, on their review of BSE controls which will be finalised in November.

The finished report will advise ministers if changes are needed to prevent older cattle and other potentially infectious material entering the food chain.

The draft report indicates there will be no dramatic recommendations on these controls. But it highlights concern about the BSE risk from imported meat.

It says UK consumers should be properly protected from the risk of exposure to BSE when consuming imported meat as well as domestically produced food.

“There is concern among consumers and the industry that imported beef and other meat is likely to come from animals fed on material which is subject to less strict controls than is the case her.”

The report cites the risk of cross-contamination in feed mills in other EU member states where meat and bonemeal is fed to animals other than ruminants.

“The problems of cross-contamination formerly found in the UK are therefore likely to elsewhere, possibly with similar results,” it says.

We therefore urge the EU Commission to take action on problems of cross-contamination, especially in countries with a known risk of BSE.”

Agency chairman Sir John Krebs said: ” The protection of the public has been the guiding principle of this review.”

Evidence suggests BSE controls in the UK are working and that should retained in the immediate future subject to emerging knowledge, he added.

The rule preventing animals older than 30 months entering the food chain will therefore not be relaxed until unless the BSE epidemic is declining as forecast.

Sir John said he also wanted to wait until the number of BSE cases in cattle born after August 1 1996 confirms that the feed ban is effective.

The draft review makes no proposals for changing current rules on SRMs, although it says tighter controls would be needed if BSE was found in sheep.

It indicates no likelihood of the meat and bonemeal ban being relaxed.

It does say, however, that there is no public health reason for banning downstream products of rendering, including tallow.