Delay in BSE testing decision could ‘cost beef millions’

The UK’s beef industry could lose millions of pounds over the delay in the Food Standards Agency’s decision to raise the cattle BSE testing limit to 48 months.

The FSA said it would wait until a further report on surveillance had been produced and reviewed by the Spongiform Encephalopathies Advisory Committee (SEAC), hopefully in December.

But the Welsh Farming Union said the FSA and SEAC had created hurdles that could delay the lifting of the limit and cost the beef industry millions.

Aeron Prysor, FUW livestock committee chairman, said the two bodies had admitted there was an overwhelming scientific case supporting the raising of the BSE testing limit to 48 months.

“They have accepted the scientific arguments, so deferring their decision pending the production of a report is completely disproportionate,” he said.

Prevalence of the disease was just one fiftieth of a percent of 1993 levels, while there were strict rules about the removal of Specified Risk Material (SRM), he added.

“If they are worried about such a negligible risk, then I am surprised they have the bottle to get out of bed in the morning for fear of being struck by meteorites.

“The board could easily have agreed to the proposals while asking experts to look at the monitoring issue in parallel.”

Mr Jones said he was also worried that failure to raise the age limit to 48 months would lead to increased costs for farmers because DEFRA was due to transfer the costs of BSE testing of fallen cattle to them from 12 January.

Andrew James, Welsh Black Cattle Society chief executive, called on the Welsh Assembly Government to put pressure on the FSA to make a decision before Christmas.

“Producers need to go into the New Year with a clear and concise policy,” he said.

“We were expecting the FSA board to agree to the proposal to increase the testing limit from 1 January. We had all been led to believe that the age limit would be raised. It’s so disappointing.”

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