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Lord Cope of Berkeley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: In accordance with Regulation 2377/90, the pharmacologically active ingredients of any veterinary medicine that is intended for an animal which may enter the human food chain must have a maximum residue limit (MRL) set. The horse is classified as a food producing animal in the European Union. However, we have been guided by a statement by European Commission officials that, if a horse is not destined for human consumption, maximum residue limits are not required. This has meant that veterinary medicines which contain active ingredients for which no MRL has been set can continue to be authorised for use in horses which are not intended for human consumption.

There can be no guarantee of the future availability of veterinary medicines for which MRLs cannot be established, although current evidence indicates that they will continue to be available in the United Kingdom for use in horses not intended for human consumption.

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BSE: Report of 30 March

Lord Shore of Stepney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the latest report on bovine spongiform encephalopathy will be made available.[HL 1286]

Lord Donoughue: A further report on BSE in Great Britain was placed in the Library of the House on 30 March 1998.

The report outlines the measures which have been taken to protect public health since June 1997, including the Government's announcements on the White Paper on proposals for a new Food Standards Agency and the Public Inquiry into BSE and nvCJD. It also outlines the measures which have been taken to protect public health during the period under report, including legislation on Beef Bones and Specified Risk Materials. It summarises the results of action to enforce existing public health measures, and outlines the action which has been taken to set up a cattle tracing system. An update on the number of cases of nvCJD is included.

The epidemiology section shows that the epidemic of BSE in the UK continues to decline. The number of clinically suspect cases of BSE reported in Great Britain has continued to fall and for the six months to 31 December 1997 was 36 per cent. fewer than for the same period in 1996 and 68 per cent. fewer than for the same period in 1995. A continued improvement is expected for the future. The section shows that almost two-thirds of UK herds with adult breeding cattle have never had a case of BSE.

Furthermore, 84 per cent. of beef suckler herds have never had a case of BSE. Reported incidence also shows that herds with more than four cases of BSE account for nearly three-quarters of all BSE cases, but represent only just over 10 per cent. of all herds.

There is a section on the protection of animal health covering the controls on animal feed and the selective cull.

The European perspective is reported in a section covering progress towards lifting the export ban, the European Parliament Temporary Committee of Inquiry and Commission proposals on Specified Risk Materials.

GSM Foods: Identification

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in allowing food containing genetically modified material into the country, and allowing it to be sold without specific identification, they are acting in accordance with the Precautionary Principle, or in accordance with the view that if ill-effects have so far not been identified, it is safe to assume there can be no ill effects.[HL 1259]

Lord Donoughue: Food containing genetically modified material can only be imported into the European Union if it has been approved following a rigorous safety assessment. In the UK this safety assessment is undertaken by the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods

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and Processes. The Committee always takes a precautionary approach in arriving at its conclusions. As far as identification is concerned, the Government are determined to ensure that all foods containing genetically modified material are clearly labelled so that consumers can decide whether to purchase them or not. Detailed EC rules for doing this in the case of genetically modified soya and maize are expected to be agreed shortly. In the meantime, manufacturers and retailers have been labelling genetically modified products on a voluntary basis since the beginning of January.

Mussel Farms: Predation by Eider Ducks

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have calculated the economic impact on mussel farms in the United Kingdom of predation by eider ducks.[HL1276]

Lord Donoughue: While the Government have not made an assessment of the economic impact of eider ducks on mussel farms, a research project to develop improved management and prevention strategies is already under way at the University of Glasgow. The project, worth £118,000 over three years, is jointly funded by industry and the National Environment Research Council under the Aquaculture LINK Programme.

Vitamin B6

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have had any recent discussions with representatives of the United States Government about the work of the American National Academy of Science; and whether they have made any assessment of its current investigation into the safety of Vitamin B6.[HL1268]

Lord Donoughue: We are aware that the United States National Academy of Sciences is undertaking a review of B vitamins, including Vitamin B6. Officials have confirmed in correspondence with the Office of the United States Trade Representative in Washington that if further data on the safety of vitamin B6 becomes available during the current consultation exercise on the draft regulations required to implement the proposed controls on dietary supplements containing Vitamin B6 it will be taken into account by the Government. We have not discussed the issue with representatives of the United States Government, nor have we made any assessment of the National Academy of Sciences investigation, the results of which have yet to be published.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their draft statutory instrument on the retail sale of Vitamin B6 supplements has yet been passed for comment to the European Commission and to other member states of the European Union.[HL1269]

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Lord Donoughue: A copy of the draft regulations required to implement the proposed controls on dietary supplements containing Vitamin B6 was sent to the European Commission on 2 April. It is the responsibility of the Commission to inform other member states of the European Union of the notification.

Beef Bones Regulations 1997

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they received regarding the European legal position prior to banning the sale of beef on the bone.[HL1109]

Lord Donoughue: The Government took full account of advice regarding the European legal position prior to introducing the Beef Bones Regulations 1997 which include the ban on the retail sale of beef on the bone.

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House any scientific and legal advice which they received prior to, or as part of, their consultation exercise in relation to the banning of beef on the bone.[HL1110]

Lord Donoughue: The Beef Bones Regulations 1997, which include a ban on the retail sale of beef on the bone, were introduced after the Government received advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) that BSE infectivity had been found in the dorsal root ganglia (DRG), and possibly the bone marrow, of cattle infected experimentally with BSE. A copy of SEAC's advice is available in the Library of the House along with copies of all the responses received to the consultation on the proposals for legislation. The Chief Medical Officer's advice was the subject of a News Release issued by the Department of Health on 5 December 1997, also available in the Library. It is not the practice to publish legal advice given to the Government.

The Earl of Haddington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who has been awarded the consultancy and on what date they expect to establish the cattle traceability system for the United Kingdom, and:


    (a) where it is proposed to site the headquarters;


    (b) how many people it is expected to employ;


    (c) who is to be appointed as its chief executive;


    (d) what computer equipment and software is to be employed and at what cost;


    (e) on what date the system will be operational as a pilot project; and


    (f) on what date they expect the scheme to be fully operational.[HL1111]

Lord Donoughue: PA Consulting Group were awarded a contract on 16 May 1997 to assist the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in

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establishing the Cattle Tracing System (CTS) in Great Britain.

The CTS will be administered by the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), which will be sited at Workington, Cumbria;

Once it is fully operational, the BCMS will comprise up to 260 staff;

Mr. David Evans has been appointed Director of the BCMS after an open competition;

The establishment of the CTS and the new BCMS operation at Workington involves the deployment of a variety of computer equipment and software. The main items consist of specialised scanners and scanning software, a database server and software and dedicated printing facilities.

The current estimates for the setting up of the CTS as a whole are as follows:

Estimate
(£ million)
Database development (further enhancements costing up to £3 million may also take place)6.5
Project Management3.7
BCMS (Accommodation)3.5
BCMS (Equipment, Services and publicity)3.7
Total17.3

There is expected to be some test running of CTS over the summer;

We expect CTS to be operating by late summer 1998.



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