The European Council of Agriculture Ministers has reached political agreement on revised and improved legislation on EU measures to control outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
Although FMD is not dangerous to humans, the Commission emphasised that recent outbreaks of the viral disease in livestock have had dire economic consequences on the EU meat processing industry.
The amended directive details the measures to rapidly control and eradicate the disease and outlines procedures on recovering the status 'free of FMD and infection without vaccination', which is of crucial importance to meat packers and processors. Control actions will be supplemented with measures to ensure a high level of preparedness against the disease in the future.
"Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in individual Member States impact on the EU as a whole as we saw in 2001," said David Byrne, commissioner for health and consumer protection.
"The amended law aims to maintain or, in the event of an outbreak, quickly regain the 'FMD-free' status that is of key importance for trade in animals and animal products. Emergency vaccination is moved to the forefront of control measures instead of being the last resort. The agreement is a true reform."
The new draft law has broad support from the European Parliament, the European Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee as reflecting the lessons learned from the 2001 outbreak. The details of the draft law range from the notification of a suspect case through to the measures to be taken in relation to animals and their products during an outbreak until disease and infection free status is regained.
The emphasis on various control measures is shifted by moving emergency vaccination further to the forefront of the control strategy.
The draft law also provides for regionalisation, limiting restrictions to the particular regions of a Member State that are affected by an outbreak. This is of particular importance where emergency vaccination has been carried out. Vaccinated animals from herds, which have been tested for absence of infection, may after regaining the FMD free status move within the Member State concerned but not be traded to other Member States.
Detailed rules are laid down for the marketing of products such as milk and meat from animals from restricted areas or from vaccinated animals. These products are not dangerous to humans and restrictions on their circulation are kept to the minimum required to prevent spread of possible virus, primarily through appropriate treatment or specific production conditions.
The proposal will come into force in July 2004.