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From: TSS ()
Date: February 22, 2007 at 10:43 am PST


Opinion of the Scientific Panel BIOHAZ on the assessment of the health risks of feeding of ruminants with fishmeal in relation to the risk of TSE [1]
Last updated: 22 February 2007 Publication Date: 22 February 2007

Adopted on 24 January 2007. (Question Nº EFSA-Q-2006-130)


Since Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was reported for the first time in 1986 in the UK, the European Commission (EC) has developed a comprehensive set of risk reducing measures on transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in order to protect human health from BSE and to control and eventually eradicate TSEs in animals. This Regulation (EC No 999/2001) of the European Parliament and of the Council lays down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain TSEs.

One of the most effective risk reducing measures consisted of a total EU wide ban on the use of processed animal protein in feeds for any animal farmed for the production of food, with some exceptions (e.g. use of fishmeal in non-ruminants). A temporary EU-wide ban on the use of fishmeal in ruminant feed has been in place since 2001 (EC 2000/766 and 2001/9). In 2003, the temporary ban was transferred into permanent measures within the TSE regulations (EC 999/2001). Fishmeal was banned because of the difficulties of detecting small amounts of ruminant proteins in feed containing fishmeal. Feed microscopy is currently the only method officially endorsed by the European Commission to test for the presence of animal protein in feeds. A revision of Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 is foreseen and the current draft revision allows feeding young ruminants with fishmeal and introduces a tolerance level for fishmeal in feed for adult cattle under strict conditions. Consideration to any lifting of this temporary ban on fishmeal use in ruminant diets should be supported by (1) a scientific risk assessment indicating if a risk of spreading BSE to ruminants through fishmeal is existing or not and (2) the development of a validated method allowing detection, identification and discrimination up to the mammalian species level of the presence of mammalian Meat and Bone Meal (mMBM) in ruminant feeds even in the presence of fish meal in the same feed.

In October 2004 the European Parliament adopted a resolution where it calls on the Commission to withdraw its Draft Regulation amending Annex IV to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards animal nutrition (SANCO/3027/2004) on the consideration that the feeding of fishmeal to ruminants is not consistent with the duty imposed on the Community by Article 152(1) of the EC Treaty and that the level of public health protection can not be lowered. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and its Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards was invited by the European Parliament to provide an opinion on the state of play as regards the health risks of the feeding of ruminants with fishmeal in relation to the risk of TSE and if this could it have negative consequences in terms of public health.

The experts of the Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards concluded that if there is any risk of TSE in fishmeal, this could arise from the mammalian feed being fed to this fish or through fishmeal contaminated by Meat and Bone Meal (MBM). If and when fish meal would be allowed back into the feed chain, in terms of Public Health, the concerns remain at the level of the prevention of cross contamination with MBM. The risk of TSE in fish, either being fed directly or by amplification of infectivity is remote. Much progress is made in tests used for the detection of MBM in feed using PCR for the detection of species specific DNA in heat treated animal proteins. This progress in tests developed and the combination of different tests now allow better detection and differentiation of MBM up to the species level, however, there is still no 100% guaranteed method available. Following these conclusions, also a number of recommendations were made for further research.


[1] For citation purposes: Opinion of the Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards on a request from the European Parliament on the assessment of the health risks of feeding of ruminants with fishmeal in relation to the risk of TSE, The EFSA Journal (2007), 443, 1-26

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