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ip/97/173

Brussels, 4 March 1997

Report of the Scientific Veterinary Committee on the risk analysis for colostrum, milk and milk products.

The safety of milk, with regard to BSE, has been discussed at the scientific level following interim results from the cohort study in the UK which suggested that maternal transmission did occur. The report was adopted unanimously by the joint Public and Animal Health Sections of the Scientific Veterinary Committee.  The report concludes that bovine milk from clinically healthy cows (animals not displaying BSE symptoms) and products made from it can be safely consumed. This supports the opinion of the WHO Expert Consultation of 3 April 1996.

Executive Summary

1. The Scientific Veterinary Committee has considered the evidence relating to the infectivity of milk and maternal transmission in a range of species affected by transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) and including cattle with bovine spongiform encephalopathies (BSE). It concludes that detectable infectivity does not exist in bovine milk even from cows at different stages of lactation and in the clinical phase of disease. There is no evidence that bovine milk transmits BSE. They are therefore of the opinion that bovine milk can be safely consumed in any form by any species. The same applies to milk products which contain no animal-derived additives.  

2. The Committee recommends that current controls which prohibit the consumption of milk from clinically suspect cattle are maintained. The controls should be extended to include colostrum from cattle suspected to have BSE. Exceptions can be made for colostrum or milk from such cattle used to feed the cow's own calf.  

3. Any milk or colostrum removed from a cow from the time it is clinically suspect must be destroyed so that it can enter no food or feed chain.  

4. Consideration should be given to initiating bioassay of bovine colostrum in a sensitive species but the Committee notes there is at present little evidence for a risk and some difficulties in collecting appropriate samples in sufficient quantities.  

5. The Committee recommends that a risk assessment and possible transmission studies are initiated for animal-derived rennet (a substance derived from animals stomachs for use in the manufacture of cheese). It emphasises there is no evidence that such rennet is a risk, nor is there evidence for a risk from cheese or whey protein.

Opinion

1. The Scientific Veterinary Committee having examined the considerable epidemiological and infectivity data pertaining to BSE, maternal transmission and milk conclude that bovine milk from healthy cows and products derived therefrom which contain no animal-derived additives can be safely consumed in any form by any species. There is no evidence that milk transmits BSE and the Committee considers any risk from milk to be negligible. 

2. The Committee recommends that a risk assessment and possible transmission studies are initiated for animal-derived rennet but emphasises there is no evidence that such rennet is a risk and no evidence either that cheese or whey protein is a risk.


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