OTMS cattle hope
CATTLE aged between 30 and 36 months could still be allowed back into the food chain by the end of the year despite recent scientific advice given to the government that the over 30-month rule must not be changed at present, according to the National Beef Association.
SEAC, the governments independent advisers on BSE-related issues, says it will continue to review the rule that sets the maximum age at which bovines can be slaughtered, following its interim conclusions of a review started in November 1998. The NBA believes there are signs it may be prepared to lift the age qualification for cattle to 36 months after forthcoming six monthly reviews.
"SEAC has accepted that, during 2000, the number of sub-clinical BSE cases in animals under thirty months old will lie between a maximum of four and none at all and that the risk to humans is already extremely small," said NBA vice-chairman John Bell.
He predicted that the decline to almost "invisible levels" of BSE in the two million under thirty month cattle could soon be shown to be the case for animals between 30 and 36 months old. Crucially all of these will have been reared since meat and bonemeal was removed from animal feed in August 1996.
Over 60,000 prime cattle of this age are killed each year under Over Thirty Month Scheme rules, the beef from which could substitute up to 20,000 tonnes of imports, according to the NBA.
The Meat and Livestock Commission has expressed its disappointment at SEACs rejection of proposals that could have led to the re-opening of the market for porcine meat and bonemeal. The industry will continue to press for a controlled system for the safe use of porcine MBM, it says.