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Brussels, 9 September 2010

Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal Health : support to the eradication of rabies in Italy and discussion on the West Nile Fever situation

Yesterday, the Standing Committee of Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) concluded a two-day meeting in Brussels during which four main topics were discussed in particular: West Nile virus infection in the European Union, co-financing of the eradication of rabies in Italy, poultry meat transit to and from Russia and animal welfare inspections in the laying hen sector.

Since July 2010 numerous West Nile virus infection cases have been reported in humans, including several fatalities, and in horses in some Member States. Portugal, Italy, Romania, Hungary and Greece presented the situation on the West Nile virus and on the actions taken from a veterinary perspective. The Commission recommended Member States to enhance vigilance and to ensure good co-operation between public health and veterinary authorities at local and central level. The European Commission is currently financing several research projects on vector-borne diseases concerning West Nile virus.

The SCoFCAH has given a positive opinion on a Commission proposal to finance a wildlife rabies vaccination plan in North East Italy as this disease recently reoccurred in the country. The Commission provides a funding of € 2.3million in 2010 for this plan. It will co-finance oral vaccination campaigns for foxes to eradicate the disease and to prevent its spread to neighbouring regions.

The Committee also endorsed a Commission proposal to allow the transit of poultry meat and poultry meat products from Russia through the European Union. This decision followed an inspection carried out by the Commission inspection service of DG Health and Consumers, FVO - Food and Veterinary Office, in Russia, which concluded that the competent veterinary authority provides appropriate animal health guarantees to transit these commodities through the EU. Until now, transit of products of animal origin, including poultry meat and products, coming from and bound for Russia was only possible via a few Member States under certain conditions, including channelling through a limited number of border inspection posts.

Finally, the Commission presented to the Committee the analysis of Member States reports regarding animal welfare inspections in the laying hen sector. The Commission encouraged those Member States which had not already done so to send complete data on the number of production sites keeping laying hens in enriched and un-enriched cages as required by Commission Decision 2006/778/EC. More data are needed in order to have a correct overview of the current situation in the laying hen sector and to monitor the preparedness of Member States to implement the ban on un-enriched cages by 1st January 2012.

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