TSE Road Map May Help Ease EU Feed Restrictions

By Bruce Ross, Ross Gordon Consultants SPRL

The European Commission (EC) released in July 2010 The TSE Road Map 2, A Strategy Paper on Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies for 2010-2015, setting out possible revisions to its TSE-related legislation in the coming years. This report has been long-awaited by the rendering/animal by-products, animal feed, meat production, and farming sectors.

As expected, it contains, among other things, arguments for a partial relaxation of the total ban on the use of processed animal proteins (PAPs) in animal feed. It underlines that there are good arguments for allowing the use of non-ruminant PAPs in feeds for non-ruminant animals and fish. However, no moves will be made without full scientific evaluation or controls on the use of such PAPs being put in place. But don’t hold your breath as legislative proposals to follow up the road map ideas are not expected until 2011. Nevertheless, this new road map is a clear sign that the European Union (EU) is prepared to countenance real relaxations to the limitations on the use of PAPs in feed.

The number of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) cases in the EU fell to 67 in 2009 (compared to 125 in 2008 and 561 in 2005), with all of the cases in animals born before 2000, when the strict feed rules were deemed to be applied properly. The report concludes that in view of the downward trend of cases there is a need “to better prioritise actions towards diseases which may have a bigger impact than TSE in terms of public health and set out EU funding accordingly.”

“We’re finally on the verge of eradicating the disease in the EU,” said EU Health Commissioner John Dalli.

The road map is clear that “considering that the transmission risk of BSE from non-ruminants to non-ruminants is very unlikely, a lifting of the ban on the use of PAPs from non-ruminants in non-ruminant feed could be considered, but without lifting the existing prohibition on intra-species recycling (e.g., poultry meat and bone meal could only be fed to pigs and pig meat and bone meal to poultry). Moreover, the reintroduction of PAPs in non-ruminant feed may enable the EU to decrease the dependence on other sources of proteins.”

An EU-wide ban was introduced in January 2001 on the use of PAPs in feed for any animals farmed for food production, with only some exceptions, such as the use of fish meal for non-ruminants.

The commission stresses that the starting point when revising the current feed ban provisions “should be risk-based but at the same time should take into account the control tools in place to evaluate (i.e., the availability of a reliable test to identify the species of trace of meat and bone meal).” The introduction of a tolerance threshold level for PAPs in animal feed would need to be based on the results of an updated quantitative risk assessment, with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) expected to publish its opinion by the end of 2010.

In addition, the Community Reference Laboratory for animal proteins (CRL-AP) is investigating the performance of different new diagnostic methods that may identify the species (ruminant, pig, or poultry) of traces of meat and bone meal found in feed. The EC points out that mandatory treatment of mammalian proteins at 133 degrees Celsius, three bars during 20 minutes “results in very small fragments of animal proteins, which are difficult to detect by the current analytical methods.” The results of the CRL-AP study should be available before the end of this year.

Also, considering the limitations inherent in any control method, correct “channelling” of PAPs from different species “will be an important part of any review of the current feed ban provisions.” This means the feed chain may have to dedicate certain feed lines, even plants, to feed containing PAPs.

EU farming organization COPA-COGECA reacted favorably to the new road map, stating that it “welcomes publication of the new TSE road map released by the EU Commission today, which highlights the positive trend in the BSE situation.” It urges the EC to ease current restrictions. The farming organization added, “We are also happy that the road map answers many of our demands on processed animal proteins and the re-inclusion of non-ruminant PAPs in non-ruminant feed avoiding intra-species recycling. The feed ban for non-ruminants could consequently be lifted. COPA-COGECA calls on the Belgian presidency to make urgent progress on this in the coming months.” The European Fat Processors and Renderers Association is also arguing for priority to be given to the issue.

The latter phrase refers to the presidency (chairmanship) of the Council of Ministers. In practice the Belgians are unlikely to be able to make much progress as the council can only make decisions on proposals for legislative changes initiated by the EC. The commission has let it be known that it will make such a proposal only when all the scientific evidence is in place.

The EC is expected to await feedback on the road map from the European Parliament and council before coming forward with legislative proposals from 2011 onwards.

Elsewhere, on the issue of specified risk materials (SRMs), the road map calls for the EU list of SRMs to be aligned with the international standards of the World Organization for Animal Health, or OIE. It also stresses the necessity of ensuring “the current level of consumer protection” by continuing to assure the safe removal of SRMs, but proposes the possible modification of the list of materials/age of animals based on new scientific opinions. EFSA is expected to come forward with a report reassessing the “pertinence of the SRM list for small ruminants” by the end of 2010.

The road map proposes a possible review of the obligation to remove SRMs for those member states that benefit from a “negligible risk status” according to the OIE code. At the same time it notes that “more stringent measures” regarding SRM removal could be envisaged for those member states experiencing a slower decline in BSE cases, with the potential enforcement of a temporary embargo as a last resort.

Other areas identified by the EC where future possible changes could be made include a revision of BSE surveillance rules, enhanced measures for scrapie eradication, testing of live animals, and a relaxation of rules concerning cohort culling with a view to authorizing the slaughtering of these animals for human consumption.

In terms of BSE monitoring in bovine animals, the EC envisages the continuation of a gradual increase in the age limits for testing in those member states fully complying with epidemiological criteria.

The TSE road map can be found at http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/biosafety/tse_bse/docs/roadmap_en.pdf.

October 2010 RENDER | back