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Farm Woodland Premium Scheme

Baroness Carnegy of Lour asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: The Farm Woodland Premium Scheme has been the subject of evaluations and a policy review. The Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have laid before the House a report setting out the changes proposed; subject to approval by Parliament and the European Commission, most changes will take effect from next April. A consultation document will be issued shortly.

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BSE

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evidence there is that Swiss cattle infected with BSE were fed with rations which included meat and bone meal.

Lord Lucas: The Swiss authorities have carried out intensive epidemiological investigations into each outbreak, and the feeding of ruminant protein has been identified as the only common factor.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any cases of BSE have been reported in which the owners of cattle affected have claimed not to have fed them cattle feed containing meat and bone meal and if so, how many animals come into this category.

Lord Lucas: The inclusion of meat and bone meal in cattle feed was banned in Great Britain on 18th July 1988.

Owners of BSE confirmed animals are asked to provide a full feeding history of the affected animal; they are not asked specifically whether meat and bone meal has been fed. The owner of the animal may not always be in a position to provide this, as in many cases the animals are not homebred and the feeding pattern of animals during calfhood, when infection is most likely to have occurred, is not known. In addition, farmers may not be aware that certain brand name feed concentrates which he has fed to the animal will have contained meat and bone meal.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any meat and bonemeal which was exported to European countries in the years immediately prior to 1986 was subsequently exported to the Middle East and North Africa and incorporated into cattle feed, and, if so, whether they can explain why no reports have been received of BSE amongst indigenous cattle in those areas.

Lord Lucas: Information is not available on whether meat and bone meal (MBM) exported to other EU member states in the years immediately prior to 1986 was subsequently exported by those member states to third countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Nor is information available on whether or not those third countries use MBM in cattle feed.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will confirm that the changes in rendering systems which took place from 1972 also occurred in Europe and the USA and that most of these systems fail to inactivate BSE and scrapie agents.

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Lord Lucas: Given the number of countries and variety of procedures involved, I cannot comment in detail on changes in rendering procedures in other countries. However, the changes that occurred in the United Kingdom rendering industry were the result of market forces which it is likely were similar in nature elsewhere. The latest research has shown that the only rendering system in general use capable of deactivating the scrapie agent is heating at a temperature of 133°C at 3 bar pressure for a minimum of 20 minutes. As a result, new standards are being drawn up by the Commission which, it is intended, will be implemented in all member states by April 1997.

A major BSE epidemic has only occurred in the British Isles because the combination of critical factors that led to the emergence of the disease in this country do not exist in many other countries, if anywhere. These factors include the existence of a sheep population in which scrapie occurs and which is very much larger than the cattle population; and a feed and cattle industry which produced and used ruminant-derived meat and bone meal in calf rations. Many other countries render and recycle ruminant proteins to varying extents, but in the absence of the first two factors--and taking into account differences in animal husbandry, particularly the way calves are fed--this has not resulted in an epidemic of BSE.

Spongiform Encephalopathies in Sheep

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to take any action about spongiform encephalopathies in sheep.

Lord Lucas: I refer my noble friend to the statement repeated by my noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to the House on 24th July.

Intervention Board Annual Report and Accounts

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish the Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96 for the Intervention Board Executive Agency.

Lord Lucas: I am pleased to advise that the Annual Report and Accounts 1995-96 have been published and copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Specified Offals: Handling Surveillance

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the State Veterinary Service's surveillance of the handling of specified offals in April, May and June 1996.

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Lord Lucas: The controls on specified bovine material (SBM), previously termed specified bovine offals (SBO) are central to the protection of public health from any risk from BSE. Full compliance with them is of paramount importance in combating the disease. They require the removal of all those tissues

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known potentially to harbour BSE infectivity from all cattle at slaughter.

The State Veterinary Service carries out regular unannounced visits to all plants handling SBMs to monitor their compliance with the controls. Results of their surveillance visits in April, May and June are set out below:

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SlaughterhousesHunt Kennels and Knackeries(1)Rendering Plants(1)Incinerators
April 1996
Number of visits2812651327
Number of unsatisfactory visits4901
Percentage unsatisfactory1.43.403.7
May 1996
Number of visits3132481032
Number of unsatisfactory visits01301
Percentage unsatisfactory05.203.1
June 1996
Number of visits2682131124
Number of unsatisfactory visits2414
Percentage unsatisfactory0.71.99.116.7

(1) Rendering plants and incinerators have to be specifically approved to handle SBOs; only a small number of such plants are so approved.


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These results demonstrate an overall continuing trend of improvement in the handling of SBMs since the intensive surveillance programme began in September 1995.

It is disappointing that deficiencies continue to be found in small numbers of premises, and pressure is being maintained to improve the situation. However the majority of the failings in SBM handling found were relatively mild--for example, problems with staining or with record keeping, which would not present a direct risk to public or animal health. There have been no instances of the most serious failing, of leaving spinal cord attached to carcases, since March 1996.

The Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) is responsible for enforcing the SBM controls in slaughterhouses in Great Britain. The agency has developed detailed new protocols for the application of SBM controls. It has also established arrangements for specific refresher training on SBM controls for all inspection staff, and introduced a programme of SBM audit to ensure that SBM controls are being fully complied with and properly enforced. This is in addition to the surveillance visits carried out by the SVS. To implement the enhanced supervision of SBM, over 300 meat inspection staff have been recruited by the MHS. This intense effort by the MHS to perfect the application of the existing SBM controls is reflected in these SVS surveillance results.

Slaughterhouses face prosecution for significant breaches of the SBM controls, when sufficient evidence is available. At present, two plants have been successfully prosecuted and several more are under investigation with a view to prosecution.

The SVS will continue regular unannounced visits to all plants handling SBMs. The MHS will continue to enforce rules most vigorously, and press for prosecutions where there is sufficient evidence to support a case.

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In future, information on this subject will be available in the BSE Enforcement Bulletin, which is to be published at the end of each month. Copies of the bulletin will be placed in the Libraries of both houses.

Tuberculosis in Cattle and Badgers

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will instigate an independent, scientific review on tuberculosis in cattle and badgers.

Lord Lucas: I am pleased to tell my noble friend and the House that, following consultations with interested parties, the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales and my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have decided to set up an independent scientific review into the policy on TB and badgers. Professor John Krebs, who is Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council has kindly agreed to chair the review, which is expected to report in the early summer of next year. The membership of the review, team will be announced later, together with the date when the review will commence. The current control policy for bovine tuberculosis will continue for the duration of the review.

The terms of reference for the review will be:


    "To review the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle and badgers and assess the scientific evidence for the links between them; to take account of EU policies on reducing and eliminating the incidence of tuberculosis in cattle; to take account of any risk to the human population; and accordingly to review, in the light of scientific evidence, present government policy on badgers and tuberculosis and to make recommendations."

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