Controls brought in to protect the public from BSE should be retained and strengthened says a review report published today by the Food Standards Agency (Wednesday).

The review, called for by the Prime Minister in March this year, will continue into the future to ensure the controls are effective and the risk from BSE reduced to a minimum.

The report is published on a dedicated website (www.bsereview.org.uk) today and will be simultaneously handed to Government Ministers.

Sir John Krebs, the Food Standards Chairman who personally conducted the review, said: " BSE has caused a harrowing and invariably fatal disease for humans. No other food-borne disease is currently surrounded by so much uncertainty and carries such dreadful consequences.

"It is vitally important for public confidence that the risks associated with BSE, and the actions taken to manage those risks, are fully exposed to public scrutiny. By holding our review in public we have brought to light loopholes in existing controls and are taking action to close them.

"The FSA will continue to evaluate the BSE controls. We will scrutinise new scientific results as they emerge, as well as new information on enforcement. We will not hesitate to take further action, based on the evidence, to protect public health."

The reports main recommendations are:

  • None of the three major BSE controls should be relaxed - the controls are an animal feed ban, removal of specified risk material and the Over Thirty Months rule

  • Private kills - the slaughter by farmers of their own animals for their own consumption - must be investigated to ensure BSE controls are not avoided

  • Mechanically recovered meat (MRM) - no relaxation of controls and further research is needed to improve detection

  • Consideration being given to a complete ban on intra-species recycling, to include recycling of blood, gelatin and tallow. If this causes serious practical difficulties for particular products, they should be examined on a case by case basis

  • Strengthening country of origin labelling.

The review drew attention to issues related to imported beef and beef products and the difficulty in policing the current rules. The principle applied is that imports should not carry a significantly greater risk than domestic produce. During the course of the review the FSA instructed local authorities to step up enforcement measures on imported beef.

During the course of the review the European Commission adopted recommendations from the FSA on tightening BSE controls in EU countries. These are to come into force from 1 January 2001 and, subject to effective enforcement, will improve the safeguards on imported beef and beef products by preventing over thirty month cattle from entering the food chain unless they have tested negative for BSE.

The 60-page report, which went through three drafts and four months of public consultation, attracted a large public audience. The dedicated website has had half a million hits. Hundreds of people have sent in their observations and hundreds more have attended consultation meetings. A special stakeholders group made up of representatives from consumer groups, the meat and food industry, the academic and scientific community as well as Government departments considered the drafts. The findings of the Phillips BSE Inquiry have also been taken into account.

Copies of the report are available from www.bsereview.org.uk or by phone from 0845 757 3012.