HL Deb 05 July 2000 vol 614 cc134-5WA
The Duke of Montrose

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Given the increased identification of BSE cases in France, whether they are taking steps to protect the public from exposure to infected material coming from Europe. [HL2890]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)

The Government continue to monitor the incidence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in France, as well as in other European Union member states and in third countries. Legislation has been in place for some years to protect British consumers from the risks of BSE infected material from any source.

All beef produced within the EU must be produced in accordance with the relevant European Directive, 64/433/EEC. The European Commission's Food and Veterinary Office carries out regular inspection visits to all member states to ensure compliance. Furthermore, United Kingdom authorities are entitled to carry out random spot checks on consignments of beef from other member states, at their destinations, to confirm compliance.

In addition, since 1 January 1998 the UK has had national legislation which prohibits the import of specified risk materials (SRM) (except for technical uses such as bone china) from all countries, including the rest of the EU. This legislation requires imports of certain animal products to be accompanied by official veterinary certification that the products do not contain, and were not derived from, SRM. These controls are enforced each week by inspections of randomly selected consignments of imported meat from other member states. The results of these checks are published monthly in the Government's BSE Enforcement Bulletin, copies of which are available in the Library.

Since 1996, British law has provided a further measure of protection against the risks of BSE infection through the prohibition on the sale of beef from cattle aged over 30 months at slaughter. This prohibition applies to both home produced and imported supplies of beef. The only exceptions to this ban are for specialist grass reared herds in Britain (which can be slaughtered for human consumption at up to 42 months of age), and for meat from 14 non-EU countries which have traditionally supplied the UK, and which have no history of BSE. This legislation is enforced by the Meat Hygiene Service in licensed meat premises, and by local authorities at other points in the supply chain.

From 1 October 2000, EU-wide requirements for the removal of SRM will apply in all member states, following adoption by the European Commission on 29 June 2000 of a Decision on SRM controls.