Second phase of European BSE controls due to start on 1st January 2001 Public consultation has started on proposals for an EU-wide ban on"pithing" in cattle, sheep and goats - a process by which animals intended for human consumption are immobilised after stunning but before being slaughtered.The proposals - due to come into effect on 1st January next year - would require changes to current UK legislation. They represent the second phase of EU-wide BSE protection measures, announced by the Food Standards Agency on 21st August this year."Pithing" is the masceration - or mashing - of the brain by a rod introduced through a hole in the beast's skull, made by a captive bolt gun. The practice is carried out in some slaughterhouses to prevent injury to slaughtermen from involuntary kicking by stunned animals.The ban is being introduced because research has indicated that there is a theoretical possibility that the practice of "pithing" may cause cattle carcases to be contaminated with brain tissue. After taking expert advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC), the Food Standards Agency has concluded that there is no current need on grounds of food safety to ban the practice in the UK. However, the Agency accepts that such a ban would provide an extra safeguard by removing any possibility that brain tissue could be transported via the bloodstream to the edible parts of the carcase, as a result of "pithing". The ban is therefore being introduced as a precautionary measure.