Government consults on lifting BSE export ban

The Government today began a consultation on expected changes to UK legislation to lift the EU ban on the export of beef, bovine products and live cattle. The consultation also deals with consequential changes to controls on Specified Risk Materials (SRM). The timing of lifting the export ban remains uncertain. The Government cannot be sure whether or when the European Commission and EU Member States will agree to lift the ban but this is unlikely to happen before February 2006 at the earliest. The Commission would first need to make a proposal to lift the ban to Member States who would then need to agree the proposal. The Government is continuing to work in Brussels to ensure that the export ban is lifted as soon as possible. The consultation is being issued in advance of a Commission proposal so that the UK is ready to amend our domestic UK legislation as soon as possible if and after EU legislation is amended. When the ban is lifted, the UK expects to be able to export beef and bovine products from cattle born after July 1996 on the same basis as other EU member States. The UK would also be able to export live cattle born after July 1996 on the same basis as other Member States. Cattle born or reared in the UK before August 1996 will remain permanently excluded from the food chain.

When the export ban is lifted, the UK will need to come into line with controls that apply in other Member States. This will mean that for a new sector of the UK cattle population, that is for all cattle slaughtered when they are aged over 24 months to 30 months, the vertebral column must be removed and destroyed as SRM. Currently, the UK does not have to remove vertebral column except in cattle aged over 30 months. About 50% of UK cattle are currently slaughtered for human consumption aged less than 24 months. Arrangements for cattle aged 24 months or less would be unaffected by a change in the SRM age threshold.

The vertebral column of cattle aged over 30 months would continue to be removed in licensed cutting plants but the consultation seeks views on whether the UK should allow vertebral column from cattle aged 24 – 30 months also to be removed in specifically authorised butcher’s shops. This would enable butchers to continue to bone out beef from cattle of this age in their shops. The other significant expected change is that the UK would again be allowed to remove meat from the heads of cattle for human consumption. Views are also sought on whether the UK should allow this to take place in specifically authorised cutting plants as well as in abattoirs.

November 8, 2005

Original web page at Defra. UK