EU commissioner proposes new mad cow measures

EU commissioner proposes new mad cow measures

May 22, 2001 AP Worldstream
European Union's consumer protection and health chief unveiled new proposals Tuesday to deal with the mad cow crisis, including lowering the minimum testing age for cattle to 24 months and testing sheep.

EU Commissioner David Byrne also proposed halting the automatic slaughter of entire herds where cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy are uncovered.

Addressing an EU meeting of the 15 farm ministers, Byrne said the moves were necessary transition measures ahead of the adoption July 1 of the new EU regulation on transmissible spongiform encephalopathy diseases, including mad cow and sheep-affecting scrapie.

Byrne also said he also wants to extend the current EU ban on the use of meat and bone meal in animal feed blamed largely for the two major outbreaks of BSE that have swept across the EU and introduce stricter controls on imports of animal feed from non-EU countries where ''potential weaknesses'' currently existed.

Testing for TSEs will focus on healthy slaughtered animals and animals that die on the farm.

The European Union has struggled to deal with a health crisis that has undermined consumer confidence and underscored the need for more adequate controls and test methods.

Following the start of an intensive mad cow testing program in all EU member states Jan. 1, Byrne said 75 cases of the disease were uncovered among the 1.75 million tests carried out on healthy animals before slaughter.

More than 80 cases of BSE have been uncovered as a result of testing dead, sick or injured animals.

The Italian health ministry on Tuesday confirmed its 15th case of mad cow disease since the EU imposed mandatory testing.

Byrne said good veterinary surveillance was the single most important method of detecting BSE, and chided several member states for a lack of proper controls.

While backing the lowering of testing for BSE in sick, injured or dead animals to 24 months, Byrne said he would favor a reduction in the current 30 month-old testing age to 18 months, or even 12 months, if it helped boost consumer confidence.

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