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Brussels, 19 December 2003

Revision of TSE testing in sheep and goats

The Commission has adopted an amendment to the transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) Regulation(1), easing the heightened level of testing for TSEs in sheep and goats in the EU. TSEs are a family of diseases characterised by a degeneration of brain tissue which include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and scrapie in sheep. Testing was introduced in 2002 to provide more information on the level of TSEs in the EU sheep and goat population. This target has now been achieved and future surveillance will be focused on specific target groups.

Active surveillance of TSEs in the Community's sheep and goat population was first made an EU requirement on 1 January 2002. It was later decided to step up this surveillance. From 1 April 2002 the minimum number of sheep and goats to be tested annually for TSEs in Member States which slaughter a large number of adult sheep was increased to 66,000 animals, made up 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 were required to increase testing to meet achievable targets.

The Commission proposed heightened surveillance in response to an Opinion delivered by the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) on 18-19 October 2001 which called for an urgent survey on the incidence of TSEs in the sheep and goat population of the EU.

What has testing achieved?

Up to the end of October 2003, some 850,000 sheep and goats had been tested across the Community as part of the new measures, giving rise to the confirmation of scrapie in over 2,000 animals. This is in addition to over 1,000 cases of the disease picked up by vets and farmers in animals showing clinical signs.

The surveillance has allowed some Member States who had little knowledge of the scrapie status of their sheep and goat population to have an approximate idea of the size of the problem. It also led to the confirmation of scrapie in one Member State (Finland) for the first time.

What happens now?

As the previous set-up has achieved its initial target, the Commission today adopted a new testing regime which will apply from 1 January 2004. From now on separate sample sizes will be set for sheep and goats. In abattoirs, the number of sheep to be tested is greatly reduced, while testing of goats will no longer be compulsory.

Greater emphasis is given to the testing of dead-on-farm sheep and goats in all Member States. The highest number of infected animals is usually found in this category.

Details of the number of tests required under the new measures, as well as figures for the adult sheep and goat population in the EU 15 and Acceding Countries, are attached.

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 BSE may have entered into the sheep and goat population at a low level. To date there is no evidence that BSE is present in small ruminants under field conditions.

In 2004, €4.55 million will be available to co-finance testing for scrapie in existing and certain future Member States. Another €15.67 million in EU funding has been allocated for scrapie eradication measures.

Annex 1

Adult sheep and goat population in Member States and Acceding Countries


Adult sheep(2)Adult goats(3)
BE Belgium 108,667(4) 18,760(5)
DK Denmark73,00010,000(6)
DE Germany 1,592,000120,0004
GR Greece6,692,0003,898,000
ES Spain17,665,1412,330,953
FR France7,012,3951,026,475
IE Ireland3,730,9006,0004
IT Italy7,290,000821,000
LU Luxembourg6,7831,3704
NL Netherlands975,000201,0004
AT Austria203,54838,005
PT Portugal2,279,272390,510
FI Finland48,5003,800
SE Sweden198,0003,7504
UK United Kingdom16,429,88249,000
EU 1564,305,0888,918,623


Adult sheepAdult goats
Czech Republic40,0008,000
Slovak Republic256,96337,712
10 ACs1,699,857549,529

Annex 2

Annual Testing Requirements in Sheep and Goats from 1 January 2004

    Healthy Slaughter Sheep

Member State population of adult sheep

Minimum sample size of healthy slaughter sheep to be tested
> 750,00010,000
< 750,0000

Dead-on-farm Sheep

Member State population of adult sheep

Minimum sample size of dead sheep to be tested
> 750,00010,000
100,000 750,0001,500
40,000 100,000500
< 40,000100

Dead-on-farm Goats

Member State population adult goats

Minimum sample size of dead goats to be tested
> 750,0005,000
250,000 750,0001,500
40,000 250,000500
< 40,00050

(1) Regulation 999/2001/EC of the European Parliament and Council.

(2) Ewes and ewe lambs put to the ram (Eurostat 2002 figure).

(3) Goats which have already kidded and goats mated (Eurostat 2002 figure)/

(4) 2000 figure.

(5) Calculated as 75% of 2002 total goat figure.

(6) Info direct from Member State.

(7) Calculated as 75% of 2002 total sheep figure.

(8) 2001 figure.

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