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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 10:31 GMT 11:31 UK
EU urged to relax farm feed rules
Pig and chicken
EU scientists are looking at the safety of using animal by-products
The European Commission has been urged to lift the ban on using animal remains in farm feed.

The EU is currently funding research on the impacts of feeding animal carcasses to other farm animals.

But the European Economic and Social Committee said this work had to be "stepped up" as the ban on meatmeal had caused a financial burden for farmers.

The use of animal by-products in animal feed was halted in 2000 at the height of the UK's BSE crisis.

BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) or "mad cow disease" was spread by the practice of feeding infected cattle remains to other cattle on farms. In the UK, thousands of cattle contracted the disease.

BSE-infected meat was linked to cases of vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease) - a degenerative neurological disease currently without treatment or cure - in humans.

'Cast-iron guarantee'

But the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which is made up from representatives of business, employers and trade unions, has passed a report to the European Commission suggesting that the ban should be relaxed.

It said there was no evidence that feeding pig meal to chickens and chicken meal to pigs posed any risks to human health, although it admitted that tests should be developed so that animal proteins could be traced in meat to give consumers "a cast-iron guarantee" that the correct meatmeal was being used.

The committee urged the EU to speed up its research on the safety of using animal by-products.

It said: "As soon as the current studies have been completed, by-products from these (healthy) animals, which have been slaughtered in separate abattoirs, should be used in the production of meatmeal, the protein in which is clearly identifiable and fully traceable."

Consumer costs

The EESC has no legislative powers but regularly delivers opinions to the European Commission. It said the ban on meatmeal had dealt a major financial blow to farmers.

In its report, it said: "[The agriculture sector] lost a major source of protein for feed and the price of vegetable protein shot up due to increased demand.

"Consequently, the price of feed rose sharply. Slaughterhouse by-products also went from being a source of additional profit to constituting a financial burden; this factor, combined with the higher price of meat meal, inevitably led to higher prices for the consumer."

Brian Hosie, a vet with the Scottish Agricultural College, said: "Meatmeal can be a very valuable resource - provided it is safe.

"But I have not yet seen the evidence to show that robust enough practices could be put into place to ensure that is safe.

"You have also got to be confident that the consumer will be comfortable with this."

A spokesperson for the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "At present in EU legislation there is a total ban on processed animal proteins in farmed animal feed."

However, Defra pointed out that there was a proposal to relax to ban on meatmeal in farm feed proposed in the EU's roadmap for tackling BSE published in 2005, but added that "there are currently no specific EU proposals relating to pig meat or poultry meat on the table".




SEE ALSO
Q&A: vCJD infections
08 Dec 06 |  Health
'Human remains link' to BSE cases
01 Sep 05 |  Science/Nature

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