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Brussels, 24 January 2002

SSC publishes new opinions on BSE related issues

The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) which advises the European Commission on Transmissible/Bovine Spongiform Encephalophaties (TSE/BSE) and other multidisciplinary issues today a series of opinions on BSE related matters. They concern culling (destruction of animals related to a TSE case), the risk related to penetrative stunning at slaughter and an update on the safety of animal materials from the heads of cattle, sheep and goats. The Committee also updated its method for assessing the Geographical BSE Risk in view of recent developments and classifies Finland, Austria and Slovenia as category III.

The SSC was asked for its opinion on whether certain measures implemented in the UK and Germany could be regarded equivalent to so-called cohort culling (destruction of animals of the same age originating from the same herd), as required in EU legislation. The scientists found that the BSE management measures in place in the UK offer equivalent safety to cohort culling, provided they are effectively implemented. This is because of the combined effect of the Over Thirty Months Scheme, the feed ban and the removal of specified risk materials (SRM) from the food chain.

The scientists are more critical of the German request for a derogation from the culling approach as spelled out in the TSE regulation (the birth and rearing cohort has to be culled). Germany requested to have a case by case approach which would allow in certain cases to cull only the birth cohort. The scientists however conclude that the culling of the full cohort would add additional safety for consumers and recommend that this approach be maintained.

The SSC adopted a new opinion on the risk from the use of penetrative stunning methods in slaughterhouses. Penetrative stunning methods may displace brain material into the bloodstream depending on the method used. But the available evidence is still scarce, not always univocal and therefore needs to be completed.

The SSC updated its position on the safety of materials from the head of the animal. It maintains its standing advice that cheek meat of cattle can be safely used, but that brain, eyes, etc. should be removed from the food chain. This advice is already integrated in the legislative rules on SRM removal. Heads of sheep and goats of all ages would need to be entirely removed from the food chain if the presence of BSE in small ruminants were to become probable. For the time being this is not the case.

The Committee also updated its Geographical BSE risk assessment method. It decided that for the moment the presence of other TSEs, including scrapie, in a country should not affect its GBR assessment. Imports of cattle from countries other than the UK where a BSE-risk is now assumed or confirmed will have an impact on the GBR of the receiving country and make verification of existing GBR assessments necessary wherever those imports could change the level of imported risk.

In view of the confirmation of the presence of BSE by positive test results, the scientists now classify Austria, Finland, Slovenia as GBR III level (BSE confirmed at lower level) and propose the same risk level for Japan and Greece. Existing GBR-reports will be revised accordingly and GBR reports for Greece and Japan are under preparation.

The full opinions are available at:

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