THE FOOD Standards Agency will tell the Department of Health that removing the Over Thirty Month rule is justified but only if BSE testing procedures are up to scratch.

The FSA board discussed whether beef from older animals should re-enter the food chain on Tues (Jul 6), and confirmed that it was still its view that the OTMS rule could be changed.

But it also decided that this should not happen until an independent group had advised that a robust BSE testing system was in place.

It said this was vital given the importance of effective implementation of BSE testing in maintaining public confidence in a change from the OTM rule.

The board discussed revised estimates of the number of vCJD cases that might occur as a result of an OTMS rule change.

Modelling work suggests that under a worse case scenario, additional exposure to risk over the next six years could result in up to 2.5 extra vCJD cases over the next 60 years.

“While these figures are slightly higher than those the board considered in 2003 … the actual figures are still very small,” said a paper circulated at the meeting.

“The risk assessment indicates that the benefits of maintaining the rule in terms of additional lives saved would be very small, but the costs of maintaining it would be large.”