FSA rejects EU recommendation to relax feed ban

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said that it will advise Defra ministers that the relaxation of a feed ban, which bans processed animal protein (PAP) from being fed to non-ruminant animals, should not be supported unless effective enforcement of controls to prevent inter-species’ cross-contamination can be assured.

The European Commission is due to vote on the proposal later this year, which would allow relaxing rules that banned PAP from pigs, poultry and fish being fed to non-ruminants of a different species. The ban was introduced as a result of the BSE crisis.

The European Parliament has already confirmed that any relaxation of the rules would only be for proteins from species not linked to transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) including BSE, and may be fed only to omnivores, such as pigs and poultry.

However, during its board meeting in Cardiff, the FSA was opposed to retaining the ban, although its executive said that relaxing the feed ban would pose a negligible threat to consumers of exposure to BSE, as long as material from different species is strictly channelled and is not allowed to become recycled between the species (ie PAP from poultry being fed to pigs, whose by-products are processed into PAP feed and subsequently fed to poultry).

It said that animal by-products (ABP) used to create PAP should come from slaughterhouses that do not slaughter ruminants, but are dedicated to single species, unless a competent authority (Defra or the relevant devolved authority) is satisfied that the plant has effective measures in place to ensure physical separation of material from different species.

The FSA acknowledged the strength of opposition from the majority of consumers, as well as concerns from UK health professionals. It recommended engaging consumers to increase wider understanding of the risks and potential benefits.

Richard Griffiths, senior executive officer at British Poultry Council, said he was surprised the FSA was taking such a cautious stance, and said that the science seemed to be taking a back seat to consumers’ fears.

He said: “It should be the role of the FSA to inform and educate consumers using the science, not simply take their first reaction as the be-all and end-all.

“The FSA conducted focus groups and words like ‘unnatural’ and ‘unethical’ came out, which is to be expected. But those consumer views seem to be the only priority in the discussion and I don’t think it has been balanced with the scientific evidence or the potential economic benefits.

“The poultry industry is not clamouring to use PAP, but to have the option, either in UK production or by having it permitted could open up exports markets, adding value to the product. At the moment, this material goes to the petfood industry, so it would create competition in the market.”

If the EU legislation goes ahead, the UK could not impose a unilateral ban on the import of PAP feed into the UK, as this would risk a challenge under World Trade Organisation rules as well as infringing European law.

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