European Parliament
Battles Mad Cow
To Kill Prions: "Sterilization for at least
20 minutes at 1330 C"!
European Parliament Press Release
(excerpts), 11-12-97
The BSE (Mad Cow Disease) Committee says that the Commission has implemented most of Parliament's recommendations or has agreed to clear deadlines for their implementation. The main points to which this applies are the following:
Inspections were found to be inadequate and poorly organised. They have now been improved. The monitoring system has been overhauled and the relevant Commission departments reorganised. The conclusions of the reports from the veterinary inspection visits will be made available to Parliament and the general public. Within the Commission, monitoring functions have now been separated from legislative activities.
Protection of public health was inadequate - hence the public's concern. The Commission is currently drawing up a framework directive on food law. In addition, on 12 October 1997, it adopted a proposal for a directive on liability for primary agricultural products. The Commission has promised to push for the co-decision procedure to be applied to agricultural policy. However, the regulation on beef labelling, adopted by the Council contrary to Parliament's wishes, was adopted under Article 43 which provides for consultations only rather than Article 100a which would have involved the codecision procedure - the Commission has lodged an appeal against Council's choice of legal procedures.
The institution of proceedings for infringement of the Treaty against Member States which fail to comply with EU law on meat-and-bone meal.
However, problems remain and measures will have to be taken to deal with them. The recommendations listed below were not followed up on:
Legislative proposals to allow compensation claims for costs incurred as a result of BSE.
Disciplinary measures. Although the report welcomes the fact that a reorganization has taken place at all levels of the veterinary services, as part of which officials have been assigned to other duties, it regrets the fact that no disciplinary measures have been taken.
Administrative measures against the UK to obtain a refund for the EU budget of the funds granted to help eradicate BSE.
The institution of proceedings against the British Government for the failure by Mr Douglas HOGG, former Agriculture Minister, to appear before the Committee of Enquiry.
The United Kingdom
With regard to the plants visited in the UK, the report welcomes the substantial and effective efforts made such as improved provision of documentation, closer checking and staining to prevent meat which is unfit for human consumption from being placed on the market. It hopes, however, that such efforts are not confined to the plants which were visited by Parliament's BSE delegation to the UK.
The committee is disturbed at the scale of the traffic in meat of British origin in violation of the embargo and deplores the lack of coordination between the police and customs services of the Member States, and between EUROPOL and UCLAF (the Commission's anti-fraud unit), as well as the lack of information or the delays with which provide information to the relevant Commission departments.
As the BSE delegation noted on its visit to the UK on 1 and 2 October 1997 that port checks are not strict enough.
The report regrets the omission of any proposal to improve the monitoring system but notes the undertaking by the President of the Commission, Mr Santer, to submit proposals on the system by February 1998 at the latest.
Meat-and-bone meal
Meat-and-bone meal, which is used as a supplement to animal feed, is generally accepted as the main cause of BSE in cows. Strict legislation is therefore needed to provide the guarantees needed to ensure that an outbreak of this kind does not happen again. This was the purpose of the International Scientific Conference on Meat-and-Bone Meal held in Brussels on 1-2 July 1997 by Parliament and the Commission.
Parliament's position on this matter is clear. It argues that it is acceptable to manufacture and use meat-and-bone meal, as this is the only way of disposing of animal carcasses, but that a range of precautions is needed to eliminate any health hazards. Sterilisation for at least 20 minutes at 1330 C and 3 bar (a standard which has been binding in the EU since 1 April 1997) is essential; risky substances must be withdrawn, as must carcasses of animals which are sick or unfit for human consumption (15% of the substances currently processed); there must be a ban on feeding such meal to ruminants; and, as an additional precaution, meat-and-bone meal should not as a rule be produced in the UK.
The BVGE report calls for rules on the labelling of meat-and-bone meal: it says the ban on feeding it to ruminants should be clearly marked on the packaging, along with the ingredients.
There is as yet no EU ban on ``recycling'' carcasses of sick animals into meat-and-bone meal (unlike in Switzerland and Sweden).
The Commission should, says the report, push for the EU's standards to be adopted at the forthcoming WTO negotiations.
Support for victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
To date, 21 people have died of the new variant of CJD in the UK. The MEPs on Parliament's BSE delegation to the UK officially met representatives of the association of victims and families of victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease who had not been given the opportunity to meet UK Government ministers. The MEPs concluded that the health care system was not able to cope with the victims' needs.
Parliament has expressed its support by adopting a budget amendment to provide funding for the victims and their families. The BSE Committee is urging the Commission to ensure the funding provided, without absolving the United Kingdom of prime responsibility for the matter.
The new scientific findings published in the journal Nature endorse the belief that there is a link between BSE and CJD. Parliament is keen to encourage research to discover how the disease is transmitted from animals to human beings. Of the additional funding for the 1997-98 fourth framework research programme, Ecu 35m out of a total of Ecu 115m have been earmarked for BSE research.
Further information: Etienne BASSOT - tel. 32 2 284 47 41

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