HC Deb 10 April 2002 vol 383 c422W
Mrs. Ann Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the(a)operation and (b)effectiveness of the Beef Assurance Scheme in the prevention of BSE infected cattle entering the food chain; and what proportion of the cattle slaughtered for human consumption in the last year for which figures are available were produced under the Beef Assurance Scheme. [46382]

Yvette Cooper

I am advised by the Food Standards Agency that while normally animals over 30 months are not permitted to enter the food chain under the Beef Assurance Scheme (BAS) certain cattle exceptionally may do so up to the age of 42 months. Under the scheme, a number of stringent conditions apply, for example that cattle must be drawn entirely from specialist grass reared beef herds known not to have consumed mammalian meat and bone meal. In addition, in common with other cattle, certain specified risk material where any BSE infectivity is thought likely to reside, must also be removed. There have been no clinical cases of BSE in bona fide BAS herds.

From 1 January 2001, EU rules were introduced to require all cattle over 30 months of age—including those registered under the BAS—to be tested for BSE and only enter the food chain if found negative. The agency has advised that 20 BAS cattle entered the human food chain last year without having been tested in this way. Prior to 2001, these animals were regarded as sufficiently low-risk to enter the human food chain without testing.

There are currently 66 BAS herds in Great Britain. The total number of BAS cattle is 4,000, out of a total UK herd of 5.3 million. Last year 181 cattle were slaughtered for human consumption under the scheme.