28 March 1997

How will new EU rendering rules affect farm feeds?

By Tony McDougal

FUTURE prospects for an EU ban on mammalian meat and bonemeal in feed for all farm animals, and the removal of specified bovine material from the food chain, will depend on the success of new EU rendering rules.

EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler said that if rendering plants failed to adopt the legislation, which comes into force next week, then tighter MBM legislation would have to be enforced.

The rules require plants to heat meat to 133C for 20min at three bar pressure to kill the BSE agent. The heat treatment figures adopted follow scientific research on the survival of the BSE agent in mice, carried out in the mid-1990s.

Mr Fischler said analysis of inspections of rendering plants would be available at the Commissions scientific conference on animal feeds in Brussels, scheduled for July 1/2.

EU consumer policy commissioner Emma Bonino said the Commission would propose a new approach to inspection and controls, which would cover the whole food chain. This audit scheme would be run by member states.

German farm minister Jochen Borchert said the new rules went far enough and would be strictly followed in German plants. "If the UK had adopted these basic measures earlier, we would not have had contaminated feed crossing Europe," he said.

Spanish socialist MEP Manuel Medina-Ortega, author of a report by the European Parliaments BSE inquiry committee, also said there was no need for any extra MBM or SBO rules.

"The BSE crisis is a British crisis and a consequence of decisions to relinquish control on the manufacture of feed for livestock.

"The only animals infected on the Continent stem from exported British feed or possibly maternal transmission," he said.

But support for tighter legislation came from former NFU leader Lord Plumb, a Conservative MEP. He revealed the NFU had asked ex-farm minister John Gummer to take MBM out of all feeds in 1989. The move had not been adopted because scientific evidence at the time suggested cross-contamination of the feed was not a problem.

Lord Plumb also attacked the cheap imports of German meat flooding into the UK at prices as low as 67p/kg.

"It is time that MBM regulations were tightened and there was a SBM ban imposed across Europe, and I hope commissioner Bonino will take this up with the scientific veterinary committee."