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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
BSE ban on older cattle dropped
Cows
BSE in Britain peaked in 1992, with 36,680 cases
The nine-year ban on the human consumption of beef produced from cattle aged over 30 months is being lifted, the government has announced.

The ban was imposed after the outbreak of BSE or "mad cow disease".

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett is accepting advice from the Food Standards Agency that it is safe to end the Over Thirty Months rule.

From 7 November, older cattle will be allowed into the human food chain if they test negative for the disease.

But UK cattle born before 1 August 1996 will continue to be excluded from the food chain.

There will also be a new legal offence of sending cattle born before August 1996 to abattoirs producing meat for human consumption.

Testing

In December 2004, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said the Over Thirty Months rule was no longer proportionate to the risk, as the number of cases of the disease had fallen dramatically.

It approved a new BSE testing system in August, following a series of trials.

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
Margaret Beckett
Environment secretary

The farming minister, Lord Bach, told BBC Radio Five Live he was confident most of the cattle tested would test negative for BSE.

"Under the new scheme, every cow that is slaughtered, every cattle that is slaughtered, will be tested at the abattoir to make sure that it is OK," he said.

"The spinal cord will be removed and as a result of that very careful testing - and the scheme of the testing has been widely applauded by health experts - then that beef, that cattle, will go into the food chain."

Margaret Beckett said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) would work closely with the Meat Hygiene Service on the testing system.

"It is imperative that abattoirs and cutting plants that decide to process beef from older cattle operate tight controls and follow all agreed procedures," she said.

"It is excellent news that we will soon be able to increase our supplies of home-produced beef.

"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," she added.

The UK will need a specific proposal from the European Commission to be agreed by other EU member states before it can export beef from older cattle on the same basis as the rest of the EU.

Defra said changes in export restrictions were not expected to come into effect before early 2006.

'Increased production'

The Meat and Livestock Commission said lifting the ban would lead to a 27% increase in British beef production.

This is great news for the British beef industry and has been widely signalled for more than a year
Kevin Roberts
Meat and Livestock Commission

Director general Kevin Roberts said that translated into an additional 185,000 tonnes of domestic product on the market in 2006.

He said: "This is great news for the British beef industry and has been widely signalled for more than a year.

"It is a testament to the tireless work by us all - industry and government."

BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) was first defined in the UK in November 1986. Some 83,000 cases have been detected since then.

In 2004 there were 90 clinical cases of BSE - where animals were showing the symptoms of the disease - and 253 cases where laboratory testing found the disease to be present.

The majority of affected cattle were born before August 1996, Defra said.

The human disease Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), was recognised in 1996 and is thought to result from the consumption of BSE-infected meat.




SEE ALSO:
Farmers welcome end of beef ban
01 Dec 04 |  Scotland
BSE cattle ban to be phased out
01 Dec 04 |  UK Politics
US finds new suspected BSE case
11 Jun 05 |  Americas
Measures against BSE 'working'
27 Jan 05 |  Health


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