EFSA releases guidance for assessing new slaughtering systems

By Keith Nuthall

- Last updated on GMT

EFSA releases guidance for assessing new slaughtering systems
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released draft guidance for meat and livestock businesses seeking European Union (EU) approval for new or modified stunning methods used at slaughter.

The guidance aims to simplify how to compile applications and advises on what data is needed to demonstrate that a new stunning method provides as much care to livestock as existing systems.

The draft guidance is detailed and, noted the EFSA draft, aims to give advice on an important subject - stunning methods – about which there can be inadequate knowledge. They are “rarely subject to fundamental research due to limited budget for such activities​,” said the agency. This can be a problem, said EFSA, which stressed that “guidance and requirements have to be proportionate to the issue at stake”​.

The new guidance was developed after 2016 EU assessments of a proposed stunning system for poultry, based on low atmospheric pressure, which sparked conclusions that the system needed to be reviewed and refined.

Changes were needed regarding the rules for an ‘assessment phase 1’ where EFSA’s AHAW Panel (animal health and welfare) assesses applicant data against whether the stunning method causes immediate unconsciousness; the absence of avoidable pain, distress and suffering until loss of consciousness; and the duration of unconsciousness until death. Under the system planned by EFSA, applicants should also propose methodologies and evidence that can enable agency experts to check whether these new slaughtering methods provide as much welfare to livestock as existing stunning methods.

Assuming these checks go well, the AHAW panel then holds a ‘phase 2’ study, which “focuses on the animal welfare risk assessment”​. Here again, EFSA is calling for change, saying “further steps [are] needed…to ascertain the equivalence to the existing stunning methods.”

Both these assessments are preceded by applicants having to provide two or more studies (in laboratory and slaughterhouse conditions). These applications are initially assessed by EFSA’s APDESK Unit (for applications) to ensure there is a complete set of data enabling a reliable risk assessment of the stunning method – more information can be demanded if necessary.

The results of all these checks will continue to be published in a scientific opinion, which can be considered by the European Commission before it grants or refuses permission to use the system under EU Regulation (EC) No 1099/20091 on the protection of animals at the time of killing.

Meat and livestock companies can submit comments on the proposed rules until April 24, 2018.

Related topics: Safety & Legislation, EU, Poultry, Lamb, Pork, Beef

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