§ Yvette Cooper
[holding answer 8 January 2001]: Our general position is strongly to support action at European Union level to combat BSE. The pithing ban was introduced by Commission Decision 2000/418 of 29 June 2000, which introduced new EU-wide rules on specified risk material (SRM). We welcomed that decision overall, as a significant step forward in protecting consumers.
The Food Standards Agency has recently completed public consultation on a proposal to introduce a ban on pithing with effect from 1 January 2001, as required by the EU decision. Concerns that such a ban would particularly affect small and medium-sized abattoirs were raised in a number of responses to the consultation. Representations were also made that more time was needed to allow abattoirs to make the necessary changes to enable them to operate safely without pithing. In the light of these responses, the Government are currently considering very carefully when a pithing ban should be introduced.