§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they are satisfied with the existing measures to ensure that specified bovine offals do not enter the human food chain.
The controls in place require the specified bovine offals, the potentially BSE infected tissues, to be removed from all cattle at slaughter and be destroyed. These controls are kept under continual review. The independent Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee again looked at all the controls to protect public health from any remote theoretical risk from BSE at its meeting on 23 November. It concluded:
"Earlier in 1995 SEAC had concluded that 'provided in the slaughtering process the removal of the spinal cord was done properly, the mechanically recovered meat (MRM) process was safe and there was no reason for the Committee to change its advice.'
"In the light of the current audit reports [reported to Parliament in my Answer to you on 23 November (Official Report, col. WA16)] showing failure to remove parts of the spinal cord in a small number of carcasses the Committee expressed its grave concern.
"It noted the further tightening up of controls but felt that unless and until it was clear that the removal of SBO, particularly spinal cord, was now being undertaken properly in all cases it would be prudent, as a precaution, to suspend 46WA the use of vertebrae from cattle aged over six months, in the production of MRM."
Taking account of practical considerations, my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has decided to make regulations which would prohibit the use of bovine vertebral column from cattle of any age in mechanically recovered meat. Most MRM is made from poultry, pig and sheep meat. The committee made no recommendation for any other action in respect of products containing MRM. The committee also reiterated its advice that beef, including cuts such as rib of beef and T-bone steak that include backbone, was a safe product.
I must emphasise that these, like all our controls on BSE, are precautionary measures and that there is no evidence of a link between BSE and the human disease CJD.