A draft European Commission proposal to raise the age limit at which the vertebral column must be removed from beef has been endorsed by Member States in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH).


Subject to the right of scrutiny by the European Parliament and final adoption by the European Commission in the next two months, the vote paves the way for beef on the bone, such as the Italian Fiorentina steak or T-bone steak, to be produced again in the EU. The draft decision, based on scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), increases the threshold at which the vertebral column of slaughtered cattle must be removed from 12 to 24 months.


This is the first proposal related to changing certain EU BSE measures since the publication of the Commission’s TSE Roadmap in July.


“This first step towards easing EU BSE measures is a positive reflection of how far we have come in the battle against the disease. It is not a move that was taken lightly. The Commission drew on the soundest scientific knowledge, examined the statistical evidence and discussed this intensively with Member States and the European Parliament. We are confident that the high level of consumer protection established through our BSE rules over the past decade will not be affected by this proposal,” said Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.


Since October 2000, the vertebral column has been part of the EU list of Specified Risk Material (SRM), considered to pose the greatest risk of BSE transmission. Under EU BSE legislation, all SRM has been required to be removed and destroyed in bovine animals over 12 months, to prevent it entering the food and feed chain. Due to this, and other stringent risk reducing measures, there has been a significant decline in the number of positive BSE cases detected in the EU over the past few years and the age of those positive cases has steadily increased. These positive developments led the Commission to reflect on possible amendments of certain TSE measures in place, with a view to updating them in line with the improved situation.


The higher age limit for vertebral column removal is expected to have a positive impact on the competitiveness of farmers and meat industries, and to reduce the amount of SRM waste generated in the EU.


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