Thursday, 13 December 2012


Scottish beef farmers have welcomed the announcement from the Food Standards Agency that it will recommend an end to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) testing of any healthy cattle entering the food chain. The FSA announcement takes up a European Commission opinion to allow certain Member States to stop BSE testing, based on the scientific evidence of the lack of risk. A ministerial decision could be taken as early as January 2013. NFU Scotland views that change as an endorsement of the safety of our beef and recognition that the steps taken by the industry to eradicate the disease have been successful. As disease incidence has fallen, BSE testing requirements across Europe have reduced. Currently, all healthy cattle aged over 72 months entering the food chain are tested for BSE. Following agreement at yesterday’s FSA Board meeting, it will recommend to Government that any testing of healthy cattle entering the food chain is no longer necessary as long as the other existing safety controls continued to be enforced vigilantly. The other controls are the ban on feeding animal protein to farmed animals, which prevents the spread of BSE to animals through feed, and the removal of specified risk material (SRM) – the most risky parts of animals – at slaughter, which protects the health of consumers. BSE testing is also carried out on cattle that die for reasons other than being killed for human consumption. These surveillance measures on fallen and casualty stock will remain in force. NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller said: “The shadow cast by BSE on the Scottish beef industry is finally lifting and an end to testing of animals entering the food chain is a mark of the commitment our beef sector undertook to eradicate the disease from our animals. “An end to testing older animals will strip out a significant element of cost from our beef supply chain and may also open up the potential for some of our smaller abattoirs and processors to consider older cattle if the hurdle and cost of testing is lifted. “The announcement also sends out a clear message to the rest of the world that Scotch beef should be on their menus. The recent reopening of Russian markets to British beef is a breakthrough but concerns over BSE still act a barrier to accessing Japan. This is an issue on which we wrote to Defra recently and this announcement of an end to testing will give the Japanese and others reassurances on the safety of our product. “NFUS has always argued that controls must be based on science and is pleased to see that the FSA have followed the science in making this recommendation to the UK Government. “With such significant moves made under Europe’s TSE roadmap over the past few years, we believe there is scope for further risk-based decisions to be considered. “SRM removal provides necessary reassurance to consumers on safety but does come at a huge disposal cost to our meat processors. We would want a review to consider whether, given the absence of BSE in our herd, some parts currently viewed as SRM can be declassified on a risk basis. “While we are rolling back controls on beef, we believe it is also time to consider some of the TSE controls in sheep. We have long argued for an end to the requirement to split older sheep carcasses and remove spinal column material, on the basis that there is no scientific justification behind the practice. Whilst so much focus has been on beef controls to date, surely now it is time to examine the ovine controls.”