EUcould impose harder line on TB tests in Britain…
By Jonathan Riley
THE EU Commission is considering proposals to impose a tougher TB testing programme on the UK because of the dramatic rise in the number of cattle herds affected.
Confirmed herd breakdowns rose from 197 to 703 between 1992 and 1997. The UKs TB-free status is now in jeopardy because the trigger level – at 0.2% of the national herd affected – has been exceeded.
Chairman of the NFUs animal health and welfare committee, Brian Jennings, said that the EU was considering imposing tighter controls on the UK.
"One strategy reportedly being considered by the commission, is an increased national testing programme from the four-yearly programme to a two-yearly programme," said Mr Jennings.
But he warned that this would double MAFFs annual testing bill to £15m. Testing costs would then account for almost all of the £17m national TB control budget.
Mr Jennings feared that this would leave question marks hanging over the cash needed to fund the TB research recommended by the Krebs committee.
Peter Rudman, the unions animal health and welfare adviser, said that the onus was on government to ensure the UK maintained its TB-free status.
"Government must impress upon the EU that the UKs testing and control procedures are watertight, and in many areas already take place on a six-monthly basis."
He believed that if the UK lost its TB-free status, and if the live export market was reopened, that could mean testing programmes and TB-free certification for any herds wishing to export beef or dairy cattle in the future.
A MAFF official confirmed that negotiations were underway with the Commission but no decisions on changes to testing programmes had yet been reached.