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Last Updated: Friday, 1 June 2007, 20:18 GMT 21:18 UK
Consumers 'support BSE feed ban'
Pig and chicken
EU scientists are looking at the safety of using animal by-products
Consumers "remember BSE" and do not want the ban on feeding animal remains to livestock lifted, a parliamentary committee chairman has said.

The European Commission is funding research on whether to relax its rules on animal by-products in feed because of the financial impact on farmers.

Their use was stopped in 2000 because of links to BSE ("mad cow disease").

The UK's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee chairman says the public would reject the move.

Feeding animal carcasses to other farm animals was halted seven years ago at the height of the UK's BSE crisis.

The chairman of the all-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee, Michael Jack, told BBC Radio Five Live that consumers in the UK and the rest of Europe still had "their memory of the mess that was BSE".

"I think they would run a mile from going back to the days of feeding animals to animals," he added.

vCJD links

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 cows 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.

But the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), which includes business representatives, employers and trade unions, has now passed a report to the European Commission urging it to speed up its research on the safety of using animal by-products.

You have got to be confident that the consumer will be comfortable with this
Vet Brian Hosie

The EESC, which has no legislative powers but advises the commission, said the agriculture sector had "lost a major source of protein for feed" and that the price of vegetable protein had "shot up due to increased demand".

It added: "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."

BBC Europe correspondent Jonny Dymond said European officials were aware of the sensitivity of the issue and were keen to point out they would not consider reintroducing animal "cannibalism" - such as feeding pig meat to pigs.

Instead the commission's 1m research would investigate the safety of feeding pig meal to chickens and chicken meal to pigs.

Officials also say tests should be developed so that animal proteins can be traced in meat to give consumers "a cast-iron guarantee" that the correct meat meal has been used.

Consumer confidence

But Brian Hosie, a vet with the Scottish Agricultural College, said he had not yet seen evidence to show that robust enough practices could be put into place to ensure such feed was safe.

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

A spokesman for the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs pointed out that there had been a proposal to relax to ban on meat meal in farm feed proposed in the EU's roadmap for tackling BSE published in 2005.

But he added: "There are currently no specific EU proposals relating to pig meat or poultry meat on the table".

Asda and Sainsbury's have already ruled out selling meat from livestock fed on animal by-products if the EU-wide ban is lifted.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
How the BSE epidemic affected Britain



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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