HC Deb 04 November 2002 vol 392 cc118-9W
Mr. Laurence Robertson

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement regarding the EU's requirements with regards to sausage skins. [77049]

Ms Blears

I am advised by the Food Standards Agency that, in the knowledge of a theoretical risk of BSE in sheep, the Agency has recommended to the European Union (EU) Commission that sheep intestines, used to make some sausage casings, be added to the EU list of specified risk material (SRM) prohibited from the food chain. The EU scientific steering committee (SSC) considered at its September meeting the most recent data on BSE and sheep intestines. The SSC decided not to recommend, at this time, the addition of sheep intestines to the list of SRM. At the same time, differing scientific opinions on the effectiveness of processing sheep intestines, in removing potential infective material should BSE be present in a sheep, were acknowledged. The Agency has subsequently suggested to the Commission that experts be called together at EU level to achieve better common understanding. The Commission has agreed to this. In the meantime, there are no restrictions on the sale or use of such sausage casings pending any decision at the EU level.

Mr. Nigel Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will assess the impact on the NHS budget of the European food supplements directive and the proposed European directive on traditional herbal medicinal products; and if he will make a statement. [75816]

Ms Blears

The European Union food supplements directive is not expected to have any impact on the availability of vitamin and mineral supplements required by specific population groups, such as pregnant women. It is therefore not expected to have any impact on the national health service budget.

Overall, it is not possible to quantify the likely impact of the proposed traditional herbal medicines directive on the NHS budget.

The proposed directive on traditional herbal medicinal products should ensure the availability of a wide range of traditional herbal remedies made to assured standards of safety and quality, and accompanied by systematic and reliable information about the purpose of the product and its safe usage. Potentially the directive could help members of the public wishing to take greater responsibility for their own health to make an informed choice about which traditional herbal remedy may be helpful. It could also reduce the possibility of the public taking remedies that may be inappropriate to their health needs.

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