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Cattle Slaughter

Volume 281: debated on Tuesday 16 July 1996

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will set out the evidence evaluated by this Department underlying his assessment that no risk to human health will be posed by the slaughter of cattle over the age of 30 months in abattoirs which also slaughter cattle for human consumption; and if he will set out the extra precautionary measures which will be put in place. [28326]

[holding answer 7 May 1996]: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statements issued by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee following meetings on 20 and 24 March. These statements included recommendations on the need for deboning of cattle over 30 months in licensed plants supervised by the meat Hygiene Service, and that the trimmings must be classified as specified bovine offal. There was no suggestion that deboned meat from these animals would pose any additional risk to the public. Indeed, the committee concluded that if these measures were carried out, the risk from the eating beef would be likely to be extremely small.The Government took immediate action to implement the recommendations made by SEAC on the reclassification of SBO—through the introduction of the Specified Bovine Material Order 1996, which came into effect on 29 March. SEAC's advice for the establishment of specialist deboning plants for meat from animals over 30 months of age were not carried through; instead, in order to restore consumer confidence, the Government went further than the committee's recommendation and prohibited meat from animals over 30 months old from entering the human and animal feed chain.

The market support measures introduced by the Community under Commission Regulation 716/96 in respect of these animals required complete destruction of animals brought to market over 30 months and imposed detailed rules on the handling and processing of the resulting animal products.

This regulation imposed far more stringent conditions for the disposal of 30-month cattle than was ever envisaged by SEAC. Nevertheless, the Intervention Board executive agency, which is responsible for the running of the scheme, has taken scrupulous care in ensuring that the scheme rules comply in eveyr respect to the requirements of the regulation.

For example, scheme animals can be slaughtered only in designated slaughterhouses which have been checked by the state veterinary service to ensure that facilities are adequate to separately slaughter and dispose of animal material from scheme and non-scheme animals. No carcases or other products destined for human consumption can be present on days when scheme animals are being slaughtered and processed, unless sufficient physical barriers are present to ensure complete physical separation. Abbatoirs should accept for slaughter only cattle which can be disposed of to approved Tenderers or incinerators on the day of processing. In addition, staining of SBM and non-SBM is required as an additional precaution to ensure that there is no likelihood of any of this material re-entering the human or animal food chains.

There are many more rules which have to be followed. These are set out in the IBEA's scheme leaflet which is available on request.