Brussels, 13 November 2002
Questions and Answers on animal by-products
What are animal by-products?
Animal by-products are the parts of a slaughtered animal that are not directly consumed by humans, including dead on farm animals and catering waste (i.e. waste food originating from restaurants, catering facilities and kitchens) that contains or has been in contact with meat products, whether cooked or uncooked. Some of these products are used in animal proteins like meat-and-bone-meal, fats, gelatine, collagen, petfood and other technical products, such as glue, leathers, soaps, fertilisers etc. The alternative is their destruction, most often by incineration.
What quantity of animal by-products are we talking about?
It has been estimated that humans directly consume only 68% of a chicken, 62% of a pig, 54% of a bovine animal and 52% of a sheep or goat. Therefore, every year, more than 10 million tons of meat not destined for direct human consumption derived from healthy animals are produced in the EU. This material is then transformed in a variety of products used in human food, animal feed, cosmetic, pharmaceutical and other technical use. For example:
A new Regulation(1) on animal by-products was just adopted by the European Parliament and the Council and will apply on 1 May 2003. It aims to integrate the animal by-products sector into the "farm to table" approach for food safety as set out in the White Paper on Food Safety adopted in January 2000. It introduces stringent conditions throughout the food and feed chains requiring safe collection, transport, storage, handling, processing, uses and disposal of animal by-products.
It sets up a completely new approach. In the past, raw material of a lower health standard than the one used for human food were permitted for use in animal feeds. For example, animals that died on farm and were unfit for human consumption could enter the animal feed chain. This practice of recycling cadavers and material unfit for human consumption into the feed chain was the main factor in the spreading of the BSE epidemic, but also of other food scandals, such as the dioxin crises and foot and mouth disease. This practice is now prohibited.
Classification in categories
The Regulation classifies animal by-products into three categories based on their potential risk to animals, the public or to the environment, and sets out how each category must or may be disposed of.
Category 1 materials (i.e. animal by-products presenting highest risk such as TSEs or scrapie, residues of prohibited substance e.g. hormone used for growth promotion or environmental contaminants e.g. dioxins, PCBs) must be completely disposed of as waste by incineration or landfill after appropriate heat treatment.
Category 2 materials include animal by-products presenting a risk of contamination with other animal diseases (e.g. animals which die on farm or are killed in the context of disease control measures on farm or at risk of residues of veterinary drugs), and may be recycled for uses other than feeds after appropriate treatment (e.g. biogas, composting, oleo-chemical products, etc).
Only category 3 materials (i.e. by-products derived from healthy animals slaughtered for human consumption) may be used in the production of feeds following appropriate treatment in approved processing plants.
The Regulation also requires reliable traceability and identification systems of marking for certain materials intended for specific disposal options (e.g. incineration of meat and bone meal) to avoid possible frauds or risk of diversion of unauthorised products into food and feed.
Intra-species recycling (cannibalism) ban
The Regulation extends the current ruminant intra-species recycling (cannibalism) ban to other species. Porcine animal by-products cannot be fed to pigs and poultry animal by-products cannot be fed to poultry.
While the uses of catering waste in feed for pigs and poultry is not the focus of the Regulation, it is of major concern to nearly all Member States. Hence the Member States agreed last year on a total ban on such feeding practices ("swill feeding to pigs, i.e. liquid feed") in the revised Council Directive on Swine Fever. Such uses of former foodstuffs and restaurant kitchen waste containing meat products were at the origin of a number of major animal disease epidemics including the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the UK last year, which have led to enormous losses to the farming and non-farming community.
The three EU institutions agree on the ban on intra-species re-cycling (cannibalism). Because catering waste fed to pigs may contain porcine material, catering waste feeding will be inconsistent with the ban on cannibalism. It is also not possible to establish clear traceability for catering waste.
The adopted Regulation is flexible, permitting a temporary relaxation of the ban on the use of category 3 catering waste in feed. This relaxation will last for a period of not more than 4 years for certain Member States under highly controlled conditions, to be established shortly by the Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, composed of the representatives of the Member States.
How do Member States dispose of animal by-products?
Based on data provided by each Member State, the Commission issued a paper on 20 November 2001 giving a snapshot of the situation on the disposal, processing and uses of animal by-products across the Community. The paper, which is available on the website:
Animal by-products are used to produce meat and bone meal. The Regulation does not affect the current EU total ban on the feeding of meat and bone meal to farmed animals, which is a separate issue and remains in force without any date set to terminate it. However, the Regulation establishes clear safety rules for the production of meat and bone meal in case it is ever re-authorised for inclusion in feed for certain non-ruminant species, e.g. poultry and pigs.
The new Regulation on animal by-products requires that only animal by-products derived from animals fit for human consumption (category 3) may be used for animal feed. In other words, the same health standards required by EU legislation for human food will be required for animal feed.
In order to guarantee that animal by-products derived from animals unfit for human consumption cannot enter the human food or animal feed chain, the following requirements have been introduced:
In practice, food and feed products cannot be derived from BSE suspects, SRM or animals slaughtered over thirty months of age not submitted to a BSE rapid test. All the potentially infected material in these categories is destroyed, eliminating any prospect of it entering the food or feed chain.
Will these controls work and will they be respected?
The Regulation introduces a set of controls, which are as strict as the control established for the food industry. Furthermore, the use of markers for the identification of material unfit for human or animal consumption and the availability of new tests for the detection of prohibited ingredients in animal feed will provide practical instruments for an effective control.
Unfortunately, the possibility of a criminal act can never be ruled out. This applies to the animal feed sector as well as to any other sector such as the food industry. But it lies within the competence of Member States to ensure that the penalties for any non-compliance are sufficiently strict to ensure respect of the Regulation.
What is next?
The Commission will now focus on preparing implementing measures (e.g. approval of alternative disposal methods, derogation on intra-species recycling for fish and fur animals, feeding of necrophagous (carrion) birds, etc) as well as a number of transitional measures before the application of the Regulation on 1 May 2003.
(1)Regulation (EC) No 1774/2002 at : HYPERLINK "http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/bse/legislation_en.html#by-products" http://europa.eu.int/comm/food/fs/bse/legislation_en.html#by-products