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Brussels, 22 May 2002

BSE - SSC publishes new advice

The Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) advising the European Commission inter-alia on BSE related issues, today publishes an opinion adopted at its meeting last week, which examines the current age of 12 months for the removal from the human food chain of the bovine vertebral column ("T-bone").

For animals born after the implementation of the feed ban, the SSC confirmed its opinion of 12 January 2001 that such animals bear a low risk of BSE infection provided that feed ban has been, and continues to be, properly implemented and enforced.

The SSC took the view that neither the available research results nor the results of the 2001 rapid BSE testing programme supported raising the age limit for bovine animals born before the feed ban came into force

The SSC asked Member States to assess the human exposure risk before and after the implementation of risk management measures, including the total feed ban. The SSC will then be in a position to revisit and update its opinion on human BSE risk related to Specified Risk Material (SRMs).

The European Commission considers that this advice opens the possibility to start discussions with the Member States on raising the age limit for the removal of vertebral column in cattle born after the new feed ban. This discussion will have to take account of evidence on the effective enforcement of the ban.

Further opinions adopted

The SSC also updated its assessments of the geographical BSE risk in Austria and Finland and concluded that both countries should remain classified as GBR III, which means that BSE is present at a low level. However, in both countries the internal system is considered to be secure and the risk of new infection of cattle born after the total feed ban of 2001 is very small.

The SSC adopted an opinion on the safety of bovine embryos and the safety of animal-derived rennet. Bovine embryos are considered not to pose a risk, provided the protocols prescribed by the International Embryo Transfer Society (IETS) are respected. The rennet opinion addresses the variable potential risk of animal rennet depending upon its source (bovines, small ruminants or pigs) and use (food or pharmaceutical).

The SSC also adopted an opinion on the efficacy in terms of TSE infectivity of a new process for animal waste treatment by alkaline hydrolysis at elevated temperature and pressure.

The full text of the SSC opinions are available at:

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