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From: TSS ()
Date: March 8, 2006 at 6:56 am PST

In Reply to: UK - SECRECY OVER DELAY IN LIFTING BEEF EXPORT BAN posted by TSS on March 4, 2006 at 6:26 pm:

Date: March 08, 2006 Time: 11:15

EU veterinary experts today agreed in Brussels that the 10 year ban on the
export of beef and cattle from the UK should be lifted. This means that
exports should be able to resume by the end of April or early May.

A meeting of the EU Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health
(SCOFCAH) unanimously approved a Commission proposal to allow the UK to
export cattle born on or after 1 August 1996, and beef and beef products
derived from cattle slaughtered after 15 June 2005 on the same basis as
other Member States.

Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Margaret
Beckett, said:

"This is excellent news for the British beef industry. This EU decision is a
vindication of controls on BSE and our efforts to eradicate this disease.

"Britain's farmers produce high quality beef which will be in demand across
Europe once the ban is lifted.

"We know that our beef is, at the very least, as safe as beef produced
anywhere else in the EU."

Exports of beef and cattle when they do resume will be subject to certain
rules. Further information on the date when exports can resume and the
procedures to be followed will be published shortly. Cattle born before
August 1996 will remain permanently excluded from the domestic market and
for export.

Notes to editors

1. BSE is a neurological disease affecting cattle, typically in animals aged
five years and more. It was first recognised and defined in the United
Kingdom in November 1986. More than 183,000 cases have been confirmed in the
UK to date. The epidemic peaked at an annual total of more than 37,000
clinical cases in 1992. The number of new clinical cases is currently at the
lowest level since recording began.

2. On 27 March 1996, the European Commission imposed a worldwide ban on the
export of beef and cattle from the UK following the announcement by the UK
Government of the possible link between BSE and vCJD in humans.

3. On 14 July 1999 the Commission announced that the export of deboned UK
beef and beef products produced under the Date Based Export Scheme (DBES)
could start on 1 August 1999. The UK had also been allowed to export beef
and beef products made from foreign origin beef under the XAP Scheme. The
strict conditions of these Schemes has meant that exports have been only a
fraction of previous levels. In 1995, beef exports were worth £600 million
and cattle exports were worth £75 million.

4. On 1 December 2004, the UK Government announced the start of a managed
transition towards the lifting of the OTM rule and its replacement with a
system of robust testing of cattle for BSE.

5. On 7 November 2005 the Over Thirty Month (OTM) Rule was replaced with a
BSE testing regime for cattle aged over thirty months and born on or after 1
August 1996. This followed acceptance by the Government in September 2005 of
advice from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that a robust testing regime has
been developed following a report from an independent group overseeing
trials of the proposed system. Cattle born before 1 August 1996 will
continue to be excluded from the food chain.

6. The main public health protection measure - the removal of specified risk
material (SRM) - which is estimated to remove over 99% of infectivity in
cattle - is rigorously enforced by the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS). Only OTM
cattle that receive a negative test result for BSE can be sold for human

7. The UK's reinforced feed controls, which banned mammalian meat and bone
meal from feed for all farmed livestock, effective from 1 August 1996, have
led to a particularly sharp fall in BSE cases in cattle born after July

8. The EU Commission stated that before discussions on lifting the ban could
begin, the UK had to satisfy two criteria: incidence of BSE should be below
200 cases per million adult cattle and there should be a favourable outcome
to the inspection of our BSE controls in June 2005 by the EU Food and
Veterinary Office (FVO). The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed
the former in March 2005. For the latter, a satisfactory FVO mission report
was published on 28 September 2005. The Commission began discussions with
Member States on lifting the ban in November 2005 and made a written
proposal to lift the ban in January 2006.

9. The Regulation agreed today permits the export of beef, bovine products
and cattle born after 1 August 1996. When the export ban is lifted the UK
will be required to harmonise its SRM controls with those applicable in
other member states. The most significant change is that the age at which
the bovine vertebral column is SRM will be reduced from the current 30
months to 24 months.

10. Currently in the UK SRM vertebral column can only be removed in cutting
plants, although the Community TSE Regulation allows member states to
exercise a derogation to also remove it in authorised butchers' shops. The
Board of the Food Standards Agency will be considering at its meeting on 9
March whether the UK should take advantage of this derogation and allow
butchers' shops to remove the vertebral column from animals between 24 - 30
months of age.

11. In addition, the harmonisation of SRM controls will mean that it will be
possible to harvest bovine head meat. Presently whole heads of cattle are
SRM in the UK. The Community TSE Regulation requires that head meat is
removed in slaughterhouses but again allows member states to exercise a
derogation to remove it in authorised cutting plants. The Agency Board will
also be considering whether or not to take advantage of this derogation at
its meeting on 9 March.

12. Before exports can resume, the legislation needs to be formally adopted
by the EU's College of Commissioners, translated into all EU languages and
then published in the Official Journal of the European Union. UK legislation
will also need to be amended.

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