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Stackyard News Mar 07

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    Pressure Mounts to Address Beef on the Bone Issue

NFU Scotland and the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) have sent a strongly worded letter to European Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markus Kyprianou stressing its huge concerns at the continued delay regarding changes to rules for selling beef on the bone.

The lifting of the decade-long ban on the export of British beef in Summer 2006 involved a process of bringing consistency to beef trading rules across Europe. A consequence of this was the tightening of restrictions in the UK on selling beef on the bone. Until the beef ban was lifted, butchers and other retailers in the UK could sell bone-in beef from animals aged up to 30 months. In the rest of Europe, the limit was 12 months. A compromise was therefore reached by Brussels officials which set a new limit of 24 months; a tightening of the rules in this country. Around half of all prime cattle in Scotland are sold between 24 and 30 months and this added restriction is causing particular problems for butchers who traditionally sold rib roasts from animals aged up to 30 months.

Both organisations have stressed that the rules, which go against established science, are having a particularly serious financial impact on the Scottish and UK beef industry. When the decision to introduce the EU-wide 24-month rule was taken, it had been expected that an opinion by the European food safety watchdog (EFSA) would allow the limit to return to 30 months by the end of 2006; that opinion has been repeated delayed. NFUS and SAMW are demanding that EFSA finalises an opinion at its scheduled meeting in April to allow the European Commission to amend the legislation.

NFUS President Jim McLaren said:

“We are still lumbered with a tightened restriction despite the scientific evidence which fully supports a move back to 30 months. The irony of this problem is that is arose from a process which was supposed to be science-driven.

“There is massive frustration over this in the beef industry, especially as we had been told to expect progress by the end of last year. We can’t accept any more delays to a restriction which was a political fix in the first place, which is distorting trade and goes against the scientific evidence.”

President of SAMW, Allan Jess said:

“It is critical that our own Ministers press for a resolution in Brussels and we are writing to them today as well. The major problems that this rule is causing us here just don’t exist to the same extent on the Continent. In Europe, they have a much lower age profile of cattle at slaughter and the move to 24 months was an improvement on their existing rule anyway.

“SAMW and NFUS are putting pressure on in Brussels, but we need the UK Government and Scottish Executive to do the running on this as well. It is our industry suffering the consequences of bureaucratic delays and we have suffered enough procrastination; a point our Ministers need to make crystal clear to their Brussels counterparts.”

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