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Agriculture: BSE

Volume 691: debated on Monday 16 April 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What has been the cost to date of testing cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy infection over each of the past 10 years; and whether the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is considering moving from the regular testing of cattle over 24 months to a random testing regime. [HL2577]

The cost of testing cattle for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Britain under the EU active surveillance programme, which was introduced in 2001, is shown in the table below.

Year

Number tested*

Costs £ million **

2001

80,444

19

2002

333,073

31

2003

394,712

32

2004

515,507

31

2005

547,386

41

2006

598,755

***60

Total

2,469,877

214

* Numbers tested per calendar year

** Costs per financial year

*** Latest forecast

These figures include laboratory costs, the costs of Meat Hygiene Service controls in abattoirs and Rural Payments Agency expenditure on the collection, brainstem sampling and disposal of cattle that have died or been killed on farm or in transit (fallen cattle). The costs of testing cattle with clinical signs of BSE are excluded.

The EU Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) Regulation (999/2001) requires the UK to test all fallen cattle aged over 24 months. An amending regulation (1923/2006), which came into force on 19 January 2007, provides for the European Commission and member states to agree either to raise the age limit for testing fallen cattle throughout the EU, or to accept an individual member state’s application to implement an alternative surveillance programme. The latter is dependent on several factors, including the agreement of harmonised criteria against which a proposal from a member state would be assessed.

Defra has asked the European Commission to raise the EU age limit for testing fallen cattle from 24 months. We are also considering how best to present an application for an alternative testing programme for fallen cattle, subject to the UK fulfilling the criteria when they are agreed. No change to the age limit for testing cattle slaughtered for human consumption (from 30 months) is envisaged at this stage.