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Brussels, 7 March 2001

BSE: Commission proposal to gradually lift restrictions on export of Portuguese beef backed by the Standing Veterinary Committee

The Standing Veterinary Committee today voted in favour of a draft Commission decision proposing a gradual lifting of the ban on Portuguese beef exports and allowing the resumption of certain exports under the strict conditions of a Data Based Export Scheme (DBES). Such exports to third countries and EU Member States of beef and beef products would be authorised after inspection reports have confirmed the correct implementation of the Scheme on the ground. Only de-boned meat from animals, born after 1 July 1999, between 6 and 30 months of age complying with the conditions of the DBES would be eligible for export. The ban on exports of live bovine animals from Portugal remains in place. The proposal will now be formally adopted by the Commission.

"Portugal has taken the necessary action to make it possible to consider re-opening markets to Portuguese beef in conditions where there is no risk to consumers ", David Byrne, Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner said explaining today's draft Decision.

Before the partial lifting of the ban becomes effective a further control mission by the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) will be carried out on all aspects of the DBES. The mission will in particular address the controls on the eligibility of animals, the supervision of the establishments dedicated to the DBES, the traceability of animals and meat and the offspring cull which has to be completed before exports may resume. Once the inspection has shown up satisfactory results, a date will be set for the resumption of beef exports.

The trade restrictions on Portuguese beef , live cattle and animal feedstuffs were put in place in 1998 because of the rising incidence of BSE and the insufficient risk management in place in Portugal. BSE incidence amongst Portuguese cattle is currently still at 170 per million over the past 12 months, but there have been substantial improvements in risk management. The Animal Health Code of the International Office for Epizootics recommends that countries with high BSE incidence should be allowed to trade in bovine meat and meat products only under strict conditions.

What is a DBES?

A Data Based Export Scheme is essentially designed to give certainty and security that the beef products traded are derived from animals that are safe for human consumption. In practice it puts in place checks to ensure that the fresh meat and meat products put on the market are from animals born after the effective implementation of a feed ban and from BSE free dams. The scheme tracks all records of the lifetime and movements of eligible animals on an official computerised identification and tracing system. Evidence must be provided that the dam of the eligible animals has lived for at least 6 months after the birth and has not contracted BSE. A supplementary condition for the DBES is the slaughtering of all offspring from dams in which BSE has been confirmed. Farms, slaughterhouses and meat plants approved under the Scheme are not allowed to handle any animals or meat not complying with the DBES rules.

Background

In November 1998 the Commission adopted emergency measures restricting exports from Portugal of live bovine animals and certain bovine products to prevent the spread of BSE. The measures were amended in July 99, October 99 and January 2000 to take new developments into account.

A ban on the feeding of mammalian protein, including notably meat-and-bone meal, to all farmed animals and of mammalian fats to cattle and sheep was introduced in Portugal in December 1998. An FVO inspection found in June 99 that proper controls were in place and the feed ban effectively enforced. The national BSE eradication plan foresees the slaughter and destruction of birth cohorts (animals born within 12 months in the same herd as a BSE case) and offspring of BSE cases. As of July 1999 a centralised system for identification and registration of bovine animals has been in place.

Portuguese authorities first put forward ideas for a DBES in December 1999, which were further developed in the light of inspections carried out by the Food and Veterinary Office. The scheme as now proposed would apply to a limited number of herds which are regularly inspected by Portuguese officials.


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