Industry urged to keep up SRM controls

Meat bosses have urged the sector to maintain their specified risk material (SRM) regulation controls, despite the low risk to public health.

Following the release of a Food Standards Agency (FSA) BSE report on surveillance and enforcement of controls on SRM and animal feed, industry leaders said in a joint statement that SRM controls were an important element of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) controls.

In the statement the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), British Meat Processors Association (BMPA), National Federation of Meat and Food Traders (NFMFT), Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association and the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), all outlined the importance of protecting the public health.

Meanwhile, the FSA report showed that several sites in the UK had recently breached SRM controls, which was likely to have resulted in consumer exposure to vertebral column (VC) SRM. The breaches happened during the compiling of the report, which looked at the period between March to August this year.

However, the FSA said: “The potential health risk to people from consumption of meat containing SRM VC is extremely low, because there are now very few cases of BSE, three so far in the UK in 2013 (one atypical, two classical), and three in 2012 (one atypical and two classical). All but two of these cases were in animals born before 1996, which are excluded from the food chain.”

It added that, in the unlikely event of a BSE-infected animal entering the food chain, “the infectivity in the VC is contained in the dorsal root ganglia, which is embedded into the VC and is therefore unlikely to be eaten with the meat”.

BMPA director Stephen Rossides told that, although he did not know which sites had breached the rules, such breaches were not desirable. “Although the real public health risk from any breach is very, very tiny, it’s important that the rules are followed – firstly, for public health protection, and also to maintain public confidence.” He also explained that it was important the meat industry was seen to be doing what it was supposed to be doing.

An FSA spokesperson also told that they would name the plants involved in the breach in due course, following investigations.

The report, written by FSA director of policy Steve Wearne, was discussed at an FSA board meeting yesterday (5 November).

A statement from the meat industry organisations named above was read out at the meeting. It said: “SRM controls are an important element of TSE controls to ensure public safety and maintain public confidence. As the paper states, the potential BSE health risk from consumption of meat containing SRM from vertebral column is extremely low, given the very low incidence of BSE. Nevertheless, the protection of public health is paramount.

“Therefore, we want to state clearly that we fully support risk-based, proportionate FSA action in dealing with non-compliances and breaches.”


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