To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on current developments within the Meat Hygiene Service, with specific reference to the re-evaluation of the Over 30 Months Scheme.
[holding answer 12 June 2003]: The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is currently reviewing the over-thirty-months rule, which currently stops most older cattle from entering the food chain. This review could have an impact on the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS), an associated market support measure, run by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS), an executive agency of the FSA, provides supervision, inspection and monitoring services for the OTMS under a service level agreement with Defra.Two options for change to the over-thirty-months rule are currently the subject of consultation by the FSA. These are:
allowing cattle born after 1 August 1996 into the food supply; or
allowing cattle of any age into the food supply.
Under both options, all cattle over thirty months of age entering the food supply would be tested for BSE.
The consultation closes on 20 June 2003 and the Board of the FSA is expected on 10 July 2003 to conclude the review, and decide on advice to Ministers. The MHS is closely involved with work currently under way to identify and consider the implications for its activities, should either option be chosen for implementation.