The two conditions which the European Commission set out in order for discussions to begin with European Union Member States on lifting the embargo on British beef have now been met, the EU’s Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner Markos Kypriano has said.

Kypriano’s comments came after the European Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office published a report regarding its June inspection concerning protective measures against Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the UK.

The inspection evaluated measures concerning both active and passive surveillance of BSE, the removal and handling of Specified Risk Material (SRM), the ban on feeding processed animal proteins to farmed animals, and exceptions applicable to this total feed ban, and the system for identification and registration of bovine animals. Overall, the report concluded that satisfactory progress was noted in most areas.

The Commission had set two minimum conditions that must be met before a negotiation with Member States on lifting the UK embargo can begin. Firstly, the incidence of BSE in the UK must be below 200 cases per million animals per year, An EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) opinion in May 2004 indicated that the incidence of BSE in the UK should drop below 200 in the second half of 2004. This prediction was confirmed by EFSA in February 2005.

The second condition was a favourable inspection visit by the FVO (the Commission’s Food and Veterinary Office) indicating that the UK is able to comply with the BSE measures in force in other EU Member States.

Now that both conditions have been met, a discussion with Member States on the lifting of the embargo could be initiated, based on a proposal from the European Commission.

A total ban on the export of live cattle and all cattle products from the UK was introduced at EU level in March 1996 as a result of the BSE crisis, which affected the UK to a much larger extent than the other EU Member States.