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Brussels, 15 July 2005
What are TSEs?
Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) are a family of diseases characterised by a degeneration of brain tissue, giving a sponge-like appearance. The family includes diseases such as Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and scrapie in sheep and goats. BSE was first diagnosed in the UK in 1986, and reached epidemic proportions due to the inclusion of meat and bone meal produced from animal carcasses in animal feed. Up to 2004, there have been around 184 000 cases of BSE in the UK and 4 700 cases elsewhere in the EU-25. Surveillance has shown that most cases were in cattle born in 1994, 1995 and 1996, i.e. before the EU measures were introduced.
What are the measures currently in place for BSE in the EU?
The EU has a large body of legislation in place, drawn up on the basis of independent scientific advice, to protect humans and animals from BSE. Among the main measures currently in effect are:
What impact have these measures had?
The results of the intensive monitoring programme which has been in place since 2000 show that there has been a significant overall decrease in the number of cases of the disease across the EU. In 2002, there were 2129 recorded BSE cases in the EU-15, whereas this figure had dropped to 850 for the EU-25 by 2004. There is also a significant fall in the number of cases by birth cohort, from over 1 700 in 1995 to 2 in 2001. The average age of positive BSE cases in healthy slaughtered animals in the EU has risen, from 76.2 months in 2001 to 95.0 months in 2004. This data supports the idea that BSE contamination occurred during a clearly defined period in the past before the stringent EU measures entered into force.
Why has the Commission drawn up a Roadmap on BSE?
The TSE Roadmap is intended as a reflection paper on possible future amendments to BSE measures in the short, medium and long-term, prompted by the improved BSE situation in the EU. It is to be used as a basis for an in-depth discussion with the Council, European Parliament and other stakeholders on how the EU should proceed with regard to BSE. The relaxation of certain BSE measures would have a positive impact on the competitiveness of farmers and industries in the EU, while also enabling greater focus to be given to other threats to animal and human health which have emerged in recent years and are considered to be less under control than the BSE situation, for example, Avian Influenza. However, the Roadmap emphasises that any amendments to or relaxation of measures in the future should be based on scientific advice and have full Member State backing.
What are the main areas covered by the Roadmap?
The Roadmap deals with the main BSE measures in place, outlining the current EU legislation and presenting possible future policy options for consideration. Among the issues dealt with in the Roadmap are the rules on the removal of SRMs, the culling of cohorts, aspects of the feed ban, monitoring programmes, the eradication policy for small ruminants, BSE-risk country categorisation and the UK embargo.
Does this mean that there will be less protection against BSE?
No. The health of the consumer will remain the chief priority and no changes which would in any way compromise this will be considered. The amendment of certain measures would only be proposed if the positive trend continues and changes are backed by solid scientific assessment and conditions.
Will there be changes to the categorisation of countries according to BSE risk?
The current EU import measures regarding TSEs are based on the 4-category Geographical BSE Risk (GBR) assessment procedure. Assessments are based on specific information which must be submitted by the countries concerned, relating in particular to the number of detected cases in the country, animal by-product rendering standards, the use of SRMs, the use of meat and bone meal in ruminant animal feed. These are transitional measures, pending the final categorisation of countries according to their BSE status, and are due to expire on 30 June 2007.
The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has adopted a new simplified procedure for categorising countries under one of three headings – negligible BSE risk, controlled BSE risk and undetermined BSE risk. The Roadmap states that before the EU’s current transitional measures expire (i.e. July 1, 2007), countries should be categorised under the OIE simplified headings, on the basis of a risk assessment and active surveillance programme.
See also IP/05/952.
Sources : < 1997: OIE; From 1997 Systematic notification of animal diseases by MS, completed by monthly reports of the UK and Portugal, and since 2001, of the other MS; websites of the competent authorities of MS and the IOE. - (a) All imported cases - (b) Including imported cases: Ireland: 5 in 1989, 1 in 1990, 2 in 1991 and 1992, 1 in 1994 and 1995; France: 1 in 1999; Portugal: 1 in 2000, 2002 and 2003; Italy: 1 in 2002