NFU Scotland and the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW)
have welcomed an opinion published today by the European Food Safety
Authority (EFSA) which should pave the way for a return to beef being
sold on the bone from animals aged up to 30 months. This brings EFSA
into line with the long-established advice from the UK authorities.
Before the European ban on British beef exports was lifted
last summer, UK butchers and retailers could sell beef on the bone
from animals aged up to 30 months (in the rest of the EU, the limit
was 12 months). However, a compromise limit of 24 months was agreed
by EU Ministers as part of the process of ensuring uniform controls
across Europe; a process which had to be completed before the ban
could be lifted. Approximately half of Scotland’s prime cattle
are sold aged between 24 and 30 months so the 24-month restriction
has caused significant problems.
The 24-month rule was not based on scientific advice, hence the UK industry
has pushed EFSA for clarification of the risk. The opinion has faced significant
delay, but was published today.
Today’s opinion states that BSE infectivity would either not be detectable
or not present in vertebral column in cattle up to and including 33 months.
Importantly, in addition to that conclusion, EFSA has stated that controls
for each member state can be considered differently, given that BSE controls
have been introduced at different times across Europe. NFUS and SAMW believe
this puts the UK in a strong position to move the beef on the bone rule
back to at least 30 months, given the early introduction of the meat and
bone meal ban here.
NFUS Vice President Nigel Miller said:
“This opinion has been a long time in coming. We had been told we
could expect positive news by the end of 2006. However, the opinion is now
published and it should pave the way for legislation to change so the UK
can return to selling beef on the bone from animals up to at least 30 months
“Now the politics has to start moving. Scotland’s new rural
affairs Minister, together with his UKcolleagues and authorities must ensure
Brussels is crystal clear on the importance of changing this rule. The UK
is going to have to drive this forward in Europe, because we are the member
state that has had the most problems with the rule. We expect to be speaking
to officials in the coming days to progress this.”
Allan Jess, President of Scottish Association Meat Wholesalers, said:
“We welcome this long awaited opinion from EFSA and we will now initiate
early discussions with the Food Standards Agency and agricultural departments
to develop a UK proposition for returning to an age removal of 30 months,
which based on well proven UK control and surveillance measures.
“The current arrangement replaced a measure which had full consumer
confidence for 10 years and has added unnecessary cost on the industry at
a time when profitability is already under pressure. Hence, it is critically
important that no more time is wasted in amending the rule.”
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