'Change outdated laws designed for the BSE era'

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

Meat processors want TSE rules on sheep to be amended
Meat processors want TSE rules on sheep to be amended

Related tags: Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Primary meat processors have called for the government to change what they consider to be “outdated regulations from the BSE era”, which apply to sheep but were originally intended to prevent people contracting diseases associated with “mad cows”.

The head of the beef and lamb levy paying body EBLEX has called for the controls – which cover the removal of specified risk material (SRM) during the slaughter and processing of cattle and sheep – to be amended in the light of the latest science.

While not suggesting that standards should be relaxed, EBLEX chairman John Cross told the organisation’s annual conference that measures should be risk-based and relate to current evidence.

‘Hindering international trade’

He said outdated transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) regulations, which demand older lamb carcasses be split to remove SRM are adding cost and hindering international trade.

TSEs are progressive, fatal brain diseases with a long interval between infection and detectable disease. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is a form of TSE specific to cattle, and the most widely known as a result of the outbreak in the mid-1990s. TSEs in sheep include scrapie.

Cross said some of the legacy regulations introduced at the time of the BSE crisis in the mid-1990s were no longer fit for purpose.

“Thankfully, BSE is behind us but we have some legacy pieces of regulation left that are outdated and a hindrance to both trade and our international reputation,”​ said Cross. “I mention this particularly with regards to older lamb carcasses, which have to be split to meet the statutory checks, when customers want them whole.

‘Needs reviewing’

“Regulation is essential in the food chain but let’s keep it live, scientifically informed, risk-based and fit for purpose. The current situation needs reviewing.”

Last month the Food Standards Agency’s Board discussed incidents over 2013 where SRM in cattle had not been properly removed and what action was being taken.

Since March 2013, seven cutting plants out of 171 authorised to remove SRM vertebral column (VC) in Great Britain had been identified as having breached rules on the removal and disposal of SRM VC.

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1 comment

Nothing to see here, folks?

Posted by Jennifer Christiano,

Sure, let's go ahead and put people at risk again to boost profits. I have nothing against profit, but I DO have a little something against organisations that push the view that if we just pretend there's nothing here to see, then nothing bad will happen.

Have the foundational conditions that caused the BSE crisis in the first place been fixed? Not really. Until all producers are raising their cattle humanely and on species-appropriate diets for their entire lives, we must keep at least the last-ditch, stopgap firewalls between bad animal husbandry and public health crises, in place.

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