Select Committee on European Scrutiny Sixth Report


COM(00) 820

Draft Council Decision concerning certain protection measures with regard to transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and the feeding of animal protein.

Legal base: Article 10(4) of Council Directive 90/425/EEC
Department: Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Basis of consideration: EM and Minister's letter of 7 February 2001
Previous consideration: None; but see (19751) 5196/99: HC 34-xiii (1998-99), paragraph 2 (17 March 1999) and HC 23-xxxi (1999-2000), paragraph 1 (29 November 2000)
Discussed in Council: 4 December 2000
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared


  13.1  In order to safeguard against the transmission of BSE, Commission Decision 94/381/EC[29] prohibited the feeding of protein derived from mammalian tissues to ruminant species, subject to the proviso that, where a Member State has control systems able to distinguish ruminant from non-ruminant protein, the latter may continue to be fed to species other than ruminants. Other subsequent measures, covering such areas as processing standards and the exclusion of specified risk material, have sought to prevent the disease from entering the food chain, but the Commission says that inspections have shown deficiencies in their implementation. Consequently, at its meeting on 27-28 November 2000, the Scientific Steering Committee recommended that, where the risk of cross-contamination of cattle feed with feed destined for other animals (and which may be contaminated with the BSE agent) cannot be excluded, a ban on animal proteins in animal feed should be considered.

The current proposal

  13.2  The Commission therefore put to the Standing Veterinary Committee (SVC) on 30 November 2000 a proposal that there should be a temporary ban between 1 January 2001 and 30 June 2001 on such feed, pending a total re-evaluation of the implementation of Community legislation in Member States. The latter would be based on a large-scale Community testing programme, providing concrete data on the prevalence of BSE in the Member States, and identifying those where BSE recycling through processed animal protein remains a possibility.

  13.3  More specifically, the Commission proposed that, apart from milk and milk products and the feeding of fishmeal to fish, Member States should prohibit the feeding of processed animal proteins[30] to farmed animals which are kept, fattened or bred for the production of food. Member States would similarly be required to prohibit the placing on the market, or the import and export, of processed animal proteins intended for feeding to such animals, and to withdraw any such proteins from the market, distribution channels and on-farm storage.

  13.4  When this proposal was put to the SVC, it received a negative opinion, with the UK being among those Member States which voted against. Consequently, under the relevant rules of procedure, it was then referred to the Agriculture Council, which adopted the proposal at its meeting on 4 December 2000, subject to the exceptions to the prohibition being extended to include the feeding of fishmeal to animals other than ruminants, the feeding of non-ruminant gelatin used for coating of additives, and the feeding of dicalcium phosphate and hydrolised protein. It took effect on 1 January, and is applicable until 1 July.

The Government's view

  13.5  Because of the speed of these events, it was not possible for the Government to let us have an Explanatory Memorandum in the normal way, and the situation was further complicated by the discussion then taking place within the Council on the Commission's wider proposal[31] on the rules for preventing and controlling TSEs. Consequently, in seeking information on the latter proposal, we also asked Minister to let us have details of what had been agreed by the Council on 4 December.

  13.6  We have now received a letter of 7 February 2001 from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (the Rt. Hon. Nicholas Brown), together with an Explanatory Memorandum of the same date from the Minister of State (Lords) at the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman). These point out that, because a number of Member States had taken national measures under the safeguard clauses of Community veterinary legislation in response to the increase in the number of BSE cases, the Commission was obliged to make proposals for Community measures as soon as possible.

  13.7  The UK has welcomed this development as the most effective way of bringing BSE in the Community under control, but the Minister of State points out that, because the definition of animal protein is wider than the existing UK ban, there are likely to be substantial financial implications. These will arise from the separation of production of ruminant feed and other feeds in feedmills, from the need for farmers to find alternative nutrients, from the loss of value of waste products from the poultry industry which can no longer be used for feed, and in the fish processing sector. In an attached Regulatory Impact Assessment, the UK feed industry estimates that full implementation of the Directive would involve a one-off cost of about £20 million, with additional annual costs of £10 million for increases in production, transport and raw material costs. In addition, farmers would incur extra feed costs, and extra costs from the impact which diet changes may have on livestock, but it has not been possible to quantify either of these. Against this background, the Government intends to phase in the implementation of the Directive, so as to give manufacturers time to react, and also to enable farmers more time to use up existing feed stocks, given that, in the UK, the main potential contaminant (mammalian meat and bone meal) is already prohibited.


  13.8  We have noted the information which the Government has now provided on this measure, and, although it has done so somewhat belatedly, we accept that the swiftness with which the Decision was referred to the Council prevented it from doing so before its adoption on 4 December 2000. Since the proposal has now been adopted, and is in any case a temporary measure, we see no reason to withhold clearance, but we are drawing it to the attention of the House.

29   OJ No. L 172, 7.7.94, p.23. Back

30  These are defined as meat and bone meal; meat meal; bone meal; blood meal; dried plasma and other blood products; hydrolysed proteins; hoof meal; horn meal; poultry offal meal; feather meal; dry greaves; fishmeal; dicalcium phosphate; gelatine; and other similar products including mixtures, feedingstuffs; feed additives and premixtures containing these products. Back

31   (19751) 5196/99; see headnote to this paragraph. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 2 March 2001