They have backed technical changes to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001, drafted by the EU executive, the European Commission, which are designed to make production and trading restrictions more manageable, without increasing the risk of spreading TSEs in cattle, sheep and goats.
A key change is that the EU will in future declare a country free of BSE, even if there are a handful of cases of naturally occurring ‘atypical BSE’. This follows guidance released in 2015 from the World Animal Health Organisation (OIE). It has accepted that “‘atypical BSE’ [is] a condition believed to occur spontaneously in all cattle populations at a very low rate”, so should not spark beef and livestock bans by importing countries, said a Commission note.
The approved reforms will also allow more trades in rare breeds, as certified by official breeder associations, waiving some TSE controls where movement of certain livestock around the EU may promote breeding of certain rare livestock, reducing the risk of these breeds dying out.
Livestock slaughtering & processing
Ministers also accepted some changes that should ease livestock slaughtering and processing standards. Approved amendments to the regulation now say that “tonsils are no longer defined as specified risk material for bovine animals whose origin is in member states with negligible BSE risk”. As a result, special processing techniques designed to prevent the spread of TSEs from tonsils should now only be undertaken in EU countries with a “controlled or undetermined BSE risk”.
Another change involves freeing processors (from June 2017) of the requirement to mark carcass labels with blue stripes when carcasses contain a vertebral column, but can do so safely. Instead, processors would only have to mark a label with a red stripe when regulations would usually require them to remove a vertebral column from a carcass, but it was left inside anyway. This relaxed rule would apply to imported carcasses as well as those produced within the EU.
Meanwhile, ministers have also accepted advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that Finland and Sweden should be listed as member states with a negligible risk of classical scrapie, easing controls on trades in sheep and sheepmeat from these countries.
And the council has allowed revised controls allowing semen centres to be tapped for sheep and goats where livestock reared from semen purchased at these centres have not developed scrapie over the past seven years, as certified by a veterinarian.
For more information, see http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-8717-2016-INIT/en/pdf