The government believes it has done enough to halt the spread of BSE to warrant a speedy resumption of beef exports.
Chief veterinary officer Debby Reynolds said in a report on animal health published this week that gaining ‘moderate risk’ status on BSE was a top priority as it would enable the UK to trade in beef on the same basis as other EU member states.
At present the UK is placed by the EU in the ‘high risk’ category, effectively banning exports of British beef.
For the ban to be lifted, the UK needs to convince the EU’s Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) that it has rigorous BSE controls in place.
The FVO visited the UK in spring last year, and although it acknowledged that progress had
been made, it said there was still more work to be done. It will make another visit next month to reassess the situation.
The UK will also need the backing of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and, finally, the approval of other member states before exports from this country can resume. Encouragingly, EFSA said last year that the levels of BSE discovered in British cattle during 2004 meant that, statistically at least, the UK was in the moderate risk category.
Moderate risk status is accorded to countries with a BSE incidence rate of fewer than 200 cases per million cattle aged older than 24 months over a 12-month period.
Reynolds said she hoped the EU would lift the ban on UK beef exports by the end of this year.
“We will look to the Commission to put forward proposals as soon as possible in autumn 2005, and to member states to vote in favour of them shortly afterwards,” she said.
“We therefore hope that the UK beef export ban will be lifted by the end of 2005.”
Richard Clarke