23 July 1997
European abattoirs must follow UK anti-BSE practice
By BOYD CHAMPNESS
European abattoirs will be forced to adopt anti-BSE rules and remove specified risk materials (SRM) from cattle and sheep at slaughter following a vote of farm ministers in Brussels last night.
EU farm ministers voted eight to seven in favour of the proposals which is classified as a non decision or a failure to act under EU rules. What this does is clear the path for the European Commission to make its own decision.
Because the EC backed the proposals from the outset, the introduction of the new rules is virtually a foregone conclusion. Brussels officials expect commissioners to ratify the changes at their next meeting on July 30.
The UK started removing SRMs in 1989. It has been calling on the rest of Europe to do the same since the BSE crisis last year and the resulting ban on British beef. Farm minister Jack Cunningham warned other member states that the UK would place an import ban on EU meat – containing SRMs – if they didnt support the motion last night.
Speaking from Brussels Mr Cunningham said: I am extremely pleased European consumers will now benefit from the same rigorous controls applied to British beef.
The countries that voted in favour of the proposals included the UK, Ireland, France, Netherlands, Sweden and Luxembourg with Portugal and Finland joining those in favour at the last minute. The countries against were Germany, Austria, Belgium, Greece, Italy and Denmark with Spain crossing over to the opposed side at the final stages.
Under the proposal, abattoirs will be forced to remove the brain, eyes, tonsils and spinal cord of cattle, sheep and goats aged over 12 months, as well as the spleen of all sheep and goats.
Meat and Livestock Commission head of Brussels office Peter Hardwick said Portugal changed sides and voted in favour after the implementation date was pushed back from October 1, this year to January 1, 1998. He said Finland also voted in favour after there was an amendment to the original draft allowing SRMs to be fed to fur-growing animals, namely minks.
Mr Hardwick said a number of other countries tried to push through amendments which would have made it more difficult for third countries exporting meat into the EU to demonstrate that they are completely TSE-free (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy).
However, these proposed amendments were thrown out by the voting farm ministers causing Spain to switch sides. Mr Hardwick said it was difficult to see how these tighter restrictions on third countries would have met World Trade Organisation rules.
What was being proposed was extremely descriptive. It required herd surveillance of up to seven years and it would have been difficult for these third countries to comply, he said.