BSE testing age upped to 72 months

The government has announced that the age at which cattle is tested for BSE will be increased to 72 months from July.

The current UK BSE testing age limit is 48 months, for cattle going into the food chain and ‘at risk’ cattle, such as fallen stock and casualty animals, for surveillance.

The move follows EU guidance in February which agreed a proposal to allow 22 member states, including the UK, the option of reducing BSE testing.

There were only 11 cases recorded in the UK last year, compared with 37,000 at the peak of the epidemic in 1992.

In line with the EU proposal, Defra, the Welsh Assembly Government and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have launched a consultation on whether to:

• Increase the age threshold for BSE testing of all ‘healthy slaughtered’ cattle from 48 months to 72 months, from July 1 2011; and then

• From January 1 2013, move to testing a minimum sample of ‘healthy slaughtered’ cattle aged over 72 months.

The move to 72 months would reduce the number of carcasses tested by around 27%, or 90,000 per year, saving the industry around £900,000 annually, Defra estimates. Statistical analysis by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has indicated that it is unlikely that any cases of BSE would be missed as result of either of the changes proposed.

A spokesman for Defra told Meat Trades Journal: “The testing was only intended to record the numbers of incidents and was not a prevention measure. We are following new European guidelines.”

>> Raise BSE testing age, call farmers


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