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Stackyard News Feb 2011

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European Decision to Drive Cost Out of Beef Chain

NFU Scotland has welcomed further moves in Europe to raise the age at which cattle entering the food chain would require to be tested for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).


scottish cattle

At the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) in Brussels this week, Member States experts agreed to raise the testing age for BSE of cattle from 48 months to 72 months for the vast majority of Member States, including the UK. This decision was based on food safety evidence provided by the European Food Standards Agency in December 2010.

It was agreed at SCoFCAH that the new testing regime should start from 1 July 2011, although the decision will require to be ratified by the European Parliament before it can be introduced.

Having made progress on its TSE Roadmap with regards to cattle, the Union will continue to press the European Commission to make similar evidence-based changes to the rules that affect sheep entering the food chain.

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller said:

“This decision, based on the improving disease picture across Europe, is a welcome step along the way to finally removing the shadow that BSE has cast over the beef sector in the UK and Europe for more than 20 years.

“Moving the current BSE testing requirements from 48 months to cattle aged 72 months has the potential to strip out costs currently associated with BSE testing cattle in abattoirs before the beef is allowed into the food chain. That must be good news for producers and processors.

“Rubber stamping this decision also shows that, in terms of its TSE Roadmap, Europe is making progress on cattle but, sadly, not sheep. Given the similar dramatic improvement in any TSE risk being associated with sheep, it is extraordinary that we still have an ongoing costly requirement for older sheep carcases to be split and spinal cord removed. To our mind, there is little justification for this to be necessary and it puts a huge cost burden on the valuable trade in sheepmeat from older animals.”


  • The SCoFCAH decision is subject to the right of scrutiny of the European Parliament, which has three months to express an opinion concerning this decision.
  • Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was first recognised and defined in the United Kingdom in November 1986 and was made a notifiable disease in June 1988. Over the next few years the epidemic grew considerably and peaked in the UK in 1992 at over 37,000 cases. There have been over 183,000 cases to date.
  • Scotland has been BSE free in 2009 and 2010. In years before that there were relatively low numbers of BSE cases in Scotland compared to the peak of the epidemic in the early 1990s.

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