Mad Cow Latest - Scientists Now Consider Gelatin Unsafe
EU Considers Extending Ban On T-Bone Steaks
By David Evans

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission wants tougher rules to prevent the spread of mad cow disease and is considering a move that could ban T-bone steaks and mutton chops in nearly half of EU member states, EU officials said on Monday.
Officials from the 15-member bloc are remodelling draft laws on so-called Specified Risk Material (SRMs), which must be removed from cattle carcases at the slaughterhouse, over fears they may carry the BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) agent.
The new legislation, incorporating a longer list of banned material than orginally planned, would force those seven member states with a history of BSE to ban the sale of meat attached to vertebral column from cattle, sheep and goats over one year old.
``The longer list of SRMs has implications for T-bone and mutton chops,'' one official said, adding that lamb chops would not be covered as they came from animals that were too young.
Britain banned all beef on-the-bone at the start of this year following scientific advice on the transmission of the BSE prion which said it could be carried in bone marrow.
The EU will decide on a proposal at a full meeting of all European Commissioners on Wednesday.
According to officials, a shorter list of banned SRMs, including the spinal cord, brains and eyes, would come into force on April 1. Member states with no native case of BSE would have until July 1 to apply for an exemption from the full list, which includes the vertebral column.
Seven EU members have reported indigenous BSE cases -- Britain, Ireland, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. On July 1, the longer list of banned SRMs would apply, pending the outcome of any applications.
Claims for exemption could be based on the argument that changes to slaughtering policies meant there was no longer a danger from the disease, but these countries would still have to enforce the law until any exemption was granted.
The other eight EU partners -- with no native BSE history -- would also have to apply for an exemption, but would not have to enforce the ban while their claim was being considered.
Officials said it was hoped to get the whole issue decided by the end of the year.
The original SRM legislation, designed to take effect last month, ran into complications over its impact on imports of cosmetics and pharmaceutucals, many of which contain SRMs, such as tallow-derivatives.
The United States was particularly concerned, saying the issue could escalate into a major trade dispute as it faced the potential loss of billions of dollars in exports.
Various amendments were added to the bill late last year, including delays of up to two years for pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies to change their ingredients.
Life-saving medicines were granted a special full exemption.
But new, separate, advice on the inclusion of gelatin, which also emerged on Monday, has thrown those amendments into doubt.
EU scientists have ruled that gelatin could not be considered safe, meaning the orginal amendments may have to be re-drafted.

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