Too early to relax BSE rules, EU announces

The European Parliament has said it is too early to relax European Union (EU) food health controls designed to protect consumers from BSE, despite recent sharp falls in the number of cases.

In a formal motion, it has called on the European Commission to avoid recommending ending restrictions on the use of risk materials in animal feed, relaxing animal protein feed bans for ruminants, loosening the rules on culling animals linked to infected livestock, and raising the age limit for BSE testing.

MEPs fear these liberalisation measures could follow an impending review of EU BSE rules. The parliament also opposed a proposal from the Commission to reduce research into transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), including BSE.

However, the motion proposed by German social democrat MEP Dagmar Roth Behrendt did accept the potential for gradually relaxing animal protein feed bans for non-ruminants.

A parliament communiqué said: “Given the EU’s ‘protein deficit’, MEPs back this idea, subject to strict conditions and safeguards.”

These included insisting these proteins must come from species not linked to TSE, and may be fed only to omnivores, such as pigs. “Prohibitions on cannibalism must remain, and only processed animal proteins fit for human consumption should be used,” said the statement.

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