Defra officials are awaiting the preliminary report from an audit by the European Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), carried out at the end of June.
The first draft was due to be submitted to ministers this week with its findings expected to be positive. The Food Standards Agency is also waiting for a report from a group headed by leading academic Patrick Wall, set up to review BSE testing measures in the UK.
“The end to the OTMS is dependent on both reports being positive,” said Kevin Pearce, the NFU’s head of food chain and farm policy. “Not only does the FSA have to be satisfied that the UK has implemented a rigorous and fail-safe BSE testing scheme, but the FVO also has to take the view that testing provisions in the UK are adequate.”
The Wall group report is expected to hit FSA desks later this month, with a view to being discussed at the FSA’s board meeting in August.
“We’re hopeful of a favourable FVO report and, if the FSA is also satisfied by the Wall group report, then I think we will be looking at an end to the OTMS this autumn,” said Duncan Sinclair, the MLC’s economic manager for beef.
An additional 180,000 tonnes of manufacture-grade beef could be produced in the UK in 2006, following an end to OTMS.