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Healthy cattle no longer require BSE testing – O’Neill

Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced today she will be introducing from 1 March 2013, an EU derogation to stop BSE sampling of healthy cattle aged over 72 months, slaughtered for human consumption.
Thursday, 28 February 2013

Minister O’Neill said: “The reduction in BSE testing is a welcome move and will be of great benefit to industry. The EU’s decision to introduce this derogation demonstrates that the controls which we have had in place for many years, including the feed controls, are working.”

The Minister continued “I would assure members of the public that in stopping testing these healthy animals there is no risk to public health as other controls will remain in place. This decision has also been supported by the Food Standards Agency.”

For disease surveillance purposes the EU has decided that BSE testing of cattle at greater risk, including cattle over 30 months born or reared in Romania, Bulgaria or countries outside the EU, will remain in place. The removal of the specified risk material from all cattle at slaughter will continue and is the main public health protection measure.

Notes to editors:

1. Regulation (EC) 999/2001 lays down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

2. The European Commission published its TSE Roadmap 2 on 16 July 2010 outlining possible amendments to adjust EU TSE rules with the objective of reviewing measures to ensure that they remain proportionate to the risk, while assuring a high level of food safety. Amendment to the rules are taken on a step by step approach supported by scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

3. EFSA confirmed that prevention of human exposure to BSE relies primarily on the removal of specified risk material, (SRM) such as brain and spinal cord, which are most likely to harbour BSE infection. These controls remain in place.

4. The following categories of animals will continue to be tested:

  • Cattle sent for processing for human consumption which are over 48 months of age and have been slaughtered on farm for emergency welfare reasons or are put under veterinary controls following ante mortem inspection.
  • Cattle sent for processing for human consumption born or reared in Romania, Bulgaria or countries outside the EU aged between 24 and 30 months of age and have been slaughtered on farm for emergency welfare reasons or are put under veterinary controls following ante mortem inspection and all those aged over 30 months.
  • Cattle which die on farm and are aged over 48 months

5. The FSA (UK) Board considered this proposal in December 2012 noting the scientific advice from EFSA. The Board took into account that the main protection for consumers from exposure to BSE is provided by the removal of SRM. The FSA Board also recognised that the controls on feeding animal protein has been effective in reducing the incidence of BSE to its current low level and concluded that it would be acceptable on grounds of negligible risk to consumers and proportionality to stop testing subject to continuous reports on the results of BSE monitoring and enforcement of feed and SRM controls.

6. For media enquiries please contact DARD Press Office 028 9052 4619 or email: DARD Press Office Out of hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.