- LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - A
majority of European Union farm ministers on Monday supported proposals
to ban from the food chain cattle tissues thought to carry mad cow disease.
- Ministers failed to reach a qualified majority under
the EU's weighted voting system on the controversial ban, which outlaws
the use of so-called Specified Risk Materials (SRM)--cattle's eyes, spinal
cords, and brain tissue--in food and animal feed.
- However a simple majority in favour was enough to give
the European Commission the green light to implement the measure.
- According to EU officials, Spain, Finland, Greece and
Austria voted against and Germany abstained.
- The measure is another weapon in the EU's armory against
BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), or mad cow disease. BSE-infected
meat products are believed by some experts to be linked to a new form of
the brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
- ``This is a major breakthrough in our work of the past
years to make sure that the highest health protection standards are in
place throughout the EU,'' EU Health and Consumer Protection Commission
David Byrne said in a statement welcoming the ministers' decision.
- ``This measure is the best possible safeguard to keep
the meat products clear of BSE infectivity, and to protect consumers from
the risk of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.''
- ``Together with the improved BSE monitoring and testing
programme agreed with the member states in April, we will have a solid
and comprehensive package of measures in place to prevent future crises
and deliver on our food safety promises,'' he added.
- Following the ministers' decision, the proposal may now
be adopted by the EU's Executive Commission. The Commission said the goal
was to introduce the harmonising rules from October 1.
- Under the proposal, EU countries would be divided into
high-risk and low-risk. Countries with a high risk of mad cow disease such
as Britain and Portugal would have to remove a long list of cattle tissues,
and others, deemed to be low-risk, would have a shorter list of cattle
parts to ban.
- Britain has said the measures would not entail any extra
burden on its slaughterhouses as strict controls are already in place.
- Countries which export products containing SRMs to the
EU have until April 2001 to submit data proving they are free of mad cow
disease. Otherwise, they will have to remove the shorter SRM list from
- The short list includes:
- -- the skull (including brains and eyes), tonsils, spinal
cord and ileum of cattle older than 12 months;
- -- the skull (including brains and eyes), tonsils and
spinal cord of sheep and goat above 12 months or of younger animals that
have a permanent incisor erupted through the gum;
- -- the spleen of sheep and goat of all ages.
- The long list applicable to Britain and Portugal includes:
- -- the entire head (excluding the tongue but including
the brains, eyes, trigeminal ganglia and tonsils), the thymus, the spleen,
the intestines and the spinal cord of cattle above six months;
- -- the vertebral column (including dorsal root ganglia)
of cattle above 30 months;
- -- the vertebral column may also be removed at the point
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