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ip/02/255

Brussels, 14 February 2002

Extension of TSE tests in sheep and goats

The Commission adopted an amendment to the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) Regulation, stepping up the level of testing for TSEs in sheep and goats in Member States. The total number of tests per year in the European Union will be increased from 164,000 to 560,000. The derogations for Finland and Austria to certain BSE obligations have also been reviewed.

From 1 April 2002 the minimum number of sheep and goats which must be tested annually for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in Member States which slaughter a large number of adult sheep, is to be increased from the present level of approximately 18,000 animals to a new figure of 66,000 animals. The latter figure will be composed of 60,000 healthy slaughtered animals and 6,000 dead-on-farm animals over the age of 18 months. Member States which slaughter lesser numbers will also be required to increase testing to meet achievable targets. The net effect will be to increase the minimum level of testing from 164,000 to 560,000 samples per year across the European Union (EU).

The Commission proposed the new measures in response to an opinion delivered by the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) on 18-19 October which called for an urgent survey on the incidence of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in the ovine and caprine population of the EU.

At the moment scrapie, a disease not thought to have any implications for human health, is the only TSE that is known to occur naturally in these species. However, concern has existed for some years that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) may have entered at a low level into the sheep and goat population. Up to date there is no evidence that BSE is present in small ruminants under field conditions. Scientists however, do not exclude that sheep were fed with potentially infected meat-and-bone meal in the past and have said that the risk that BSE is present in sheep cannot be excluded

The Commission is already committed to funding testing in sheep and goats during 2002 to the tune of € 2.9 million. It will shortly propose to increase this figure by over € 4 million to fund purchase of extra test kits this year.

Finland and Austria confirmed their first cases of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) on 7 and 13 December 2001 respectively. Therefore it is no longer appropriate that derogations for the monitoring of healthy slaughter cattle and the removal of vertebral column should apply in these Member States. The TSE regulation has thus been changed accordingly.

Annex: Tests on healthy and dead-on-farm animals per Member State

ANNEX

Tests on animals slaughtered for human consumption (Healthy animals)

Member State

Minimum Annual

Sample Size

Belgium3750
Denmark3000
Germany60000
Greece60000
Spain60000
France60000
Ireland60000
Italy60000
Luxembourg250
Netherlands39000
Austria8200
Portugal22500
Finland1900
Sweden5250
United Kingdom60000

Tests on animals not slaughtered for human consumption (dead-on-farm animals)

Member State

Minimum Annual

Sample Size

Belgium450
Denmark400
Germany6000
Greece6000
Spain6000
France6000
Ireland6000
Italy6000
Luxembourg30
Netherlands5000
Austria1100
Portugal6000
Finland250
Sweden800
United Kingdom6000

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