13 September 2001
EU aspirants must tighten up on BSE
By Philip Clarke, Europe editor
CENTRAL and eastern European countries waiting to join the EU have been urged to step up their BSE controls.
Addressing farm ministers from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria, EU food safety commissioner, David Byrne, said failure to act swiftly could carry a high cost.
EU beef markets had already suffered a crisis of confidence due to the slow reaction of some member states.
“The delay in putting in place an EU-wide requirement to remove specified risk materials is an example,” he said.
Resistance by some member states had led to a four-year delay in implementing this measure.
The subsequent discovery of widespread BSE in these countries meant consumers felt badly let down by the authorities responsible for their protection.
“This was the critical factor in the collapse in beef consumption in the EU late last year,” he said.
Since then, most of the countries of central and eastern Europe had been classified by Brussels as “likely” to have BSE.
As such, they had to remove SRMs before exporting meat and meat products to the EU.
While this had met with some resistance, Mr Byrne said it was essential to implement the necessary controls.
“While the cost may be high, it is nothing compared with the potential damage which could arise from the presence of BSE in your animal population,” he told the Prague meeting.
He congratulated the Czech Republic, which has so far reported two cases of BSE, for taking the necessary steps.
Other central and eastern European countries would have to comply with western BSE controls when they joined the EU, Mr Byrne added.
He urged them to implement them as soon as possible.