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From: TSS (216-119-138-180.ipset18.wt.net)
Subject: UK GOVERNMENT TO CHANGE BSE CONTROLS
Date: December 1, 2004 at 7:11 am PST

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: UK GOVERNMENT TO CHANGE BSE CONTROLS
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 2004 09:04:35 -0600
From: "Terry S. Singeltary Sr."
Reply-To: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
To: BSE-L@LISTSERV.KALIV.UNI-KARLSRUHE.DE


##################### Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy #####################

Date: December 01, 2004 Time: 10:45

GOVERNMENT TO CHANGE BSE CONTROLS

The UK Government today 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.

The main public health protection measure - the removal of specified
risk material (SRM), which is estimated to remove over 99% of
infectivity in cattle - has been and will continue to be rigorously
enforced by the Meat Hygiene Service.

The Over Thirty Month (OTM) rule currently imposes an automatic ban on
older cattle from entering the human food chain.

The incidence of BSE has been declining since its peak in 1992 and has
now fallen by over 99%. The numbers of new clinical cases detected are
also at the lowest level since recording began.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has advised that the current control
measures are no longer proportionate to the risk.

An essential first step will be the establishment of a robust and
independently audited testing regime. Only cattle for which there is a
negative test result will be sold for human consumption.

The science of vCJD remains imprecise. The FSA risk assessment concluded
that it would however be consistent on the basis of the risk involved
for the Government to lift the OTM rule if a robust testing system was
in place. That is why further work is needed to establish a robust and
independently quality-assured testing regime, taking into account the
significant recent failures to test casualty animals.

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

"Protection of public health remains the Government's priority. It is
encouraging that the BSE epidemic in cattle has declined to its current
low level, but we must remain vigilant and ensure that strict controls
remain in place.

"A process of stakeholder engagement will now take place and the views
of the FSA and CMOs will be an important part of this. The final
switch-over will not happen until the FSA has advised that the testing
system is robust.

"This decision follows our successful efforts towards eradicating BSE in
UK cattle. We will be developing a robust testing system. We will also
be working in Brussels to ensure that beef from UK cattle born on or
after 1 August 1996 can be exported as soon as possible after it becomes
eligible for sale in the UK."

Health Secretary John Reid said:

"This Government has always put protection of public health at the
forefront when dealing with BSE. That is why we have kept stringent
controls like the Over Thirty Month Rule in place. Having weighed up all
the factors and taken careful account of the advice of our experts, we
now consider it appropriate to begin a managed transition towards a
system of BSE-testing, which will replace the Over Thirty Month Rule.

"Those who operate and oversee all our BSE controls have a very
important job to protect the consumer. The OTM Rule will not be replaced
until Ministers receive assurance from the FSA that the new testing
regime for older cattle is able to operate to the highest standards.
This means addressing my concerns about recent testing failures."

Any changes in the domestic OTM rule are unlikely to come into effect
until the latter half of 2005. Changes in export restrictions are not
expected to come into effect until late 2005.

Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the FSA, said:

"The FSA has commissioned the best available independent scientific
advice on BSE risks. We have also consulted widely and examined the
evidence, acknowledging the uncertainties, in an open and transparent
way. The FSA has advised that replacing the OTM rule with BSE testing is
proportionate because of the very low risk to consumers and the
effectiveness of other controls. Ministers have now accepted that advice."

"However this is still subject to there being a robust BSE testing
system for cattle born on or after 1 August 1996 in place and the Agency
has set up an independent group to advise on this. It will also be
important to engage stakeholders in the work of this independent group.
Once its work is done, the Agency will advise Ministers on the
robustness of the testing system."

The Over Thirty Month Rule has led to three quarters of a million cattle
being rendered and incinerated every year. Cattle born on or before 1
August 1996 will remain permanently excluded from the food chain.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

1. BSE was first identified in the UK in 1986. More than 183,000 cases
have been confirmed in the UK to date, of which more than 95% were
detected before 2000. The epidemic peaked at an annual total of more
than 37,000 clinical cases in 1992 and the number of new clinical cases
is currently at the lowest level since recording began. There were 186
clinical and 425 cases detected through testing in 2003. It is clear
that there will be a further sharp reduction in 2004. As at 15 November
there have been only 73 clinical cases and 113 cases detected through
surveillance this year, the vast majority in cattle born before August 1996.

2. The UK's reinforced feed controls, effective from 1 August 1996, have
led to a particularly sharp fall in BSE cases in cattle born on or after
that date.

3. In July 2004 the FSA advised Ministers that a move to replace the
over thirty months rule by BSE testing would be justified on the basis
of the food-borne risk to consumers and proportionality in relation to
the cost of maintaining the current rule. The Agency further advised
that, given the importance of the effective implementation of BSE
testing, Ministers should not change the OTM rule until an independent
group has advised that all the necessary arrangements for testing have
been put in place. Much uncertainty still surrounds the precise
causation of BSE and vCJD. However, the FSA risk assessment is based on
pessimistic assumptions and has been subject to rigorous independent
peer review. It is considered by the Government's scientific advisors on
BSE (the Spongiform
Encephalopathy Advisory Committee) to be robust.

4. The main public health control measure against BSE entering the food
chain is the removal of Specified Risk Material (SRM) which is estimated
to remove over 99% of infectivity in cattle. The other key control is
the ban on feeding animal protein to all farmed livestock, which has led
to the reduction of over 99% in clinical BSE cases since 1992.

5. The FSA has set up an independent group to advise them on whether the
testing regime that will be proposed by Defra can be considered robust,
including any additional steps that might need to be taken to ensure this.

6. The terms of reference of the independent group are 'to make
recommendations to the Food Standards Agency on a robust regimen. In so
doing, to agree: (a) the components of a robust, reliable and effective
regimen for BSE testing of OTM cattle slaughtered for human consumption;
and (b) the approach to assessing the performance of the testing
regimen; to then review those recommendations in light of a trial of the
testing system, and to report to the Food Standards Agency'. When the
rule is replaced by BSE testing, the group is also asked 'to evaluate
reports of an audit of the testing system on the first 6 months
following implementation and make recommendations as to any corrective
action needed'. Members of the group are: Professor Patrick Wall
(Chairman); Peter Jinman; Professor Peter Lind; Mrs Barbara Saunders;
and Dr Geoff Spriegel.

7. In October 2004, the FSA published a report of an
independentinquiry into the failure to test in Great Britain an
estimated 216 casualty cattle aged between 24 and 30 months. A separate
report was also published in October on failure to test 9 casualty
cattle in Northern Ireland. Members of the inquiry were: Professor
Patrick Wall (Chairman); Peter Jinman; and Mrs Barbara Saunders.

8. For cattle born before 1 August 1996, Defra will be consulting with
industry and the EU Commission on the shape and duration of a successor
scheme to the current Over Thirty Months Scheme. Temporary measures to
minimise disruption to the beef market when cattle born after 1 August
1996 are re-introduced into the food chain will also be considered.

9. The UK will need a further EU inspection of its BSE controls, a
specific proposal from the European Commission and the agreement of the
other EU member states before it can export beef from cattle born on or
after 1 August 1996 on the same basis as the rest of the EU.

10. This decision has been made by the UK Government, the Scottish
Executive and Welsh Assembly Government.

Joint Release: Defra / DoH

Public enquiries 08459 335577;
www.defra.gov.uk
Defra's aim is sustainable development

Nobel House
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR

http://www.wired-gov.net/WGLaunch.aspx?ARTCL=28395

TSS

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