At its meeting of 12-13 September 2002, the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC) examined the most recent data on the safety with regard of BSE, of sheep casings and concluded that there is no additional or new evidence justifying the possible inclusion of sheep casings in the list of specified risk materials.

Until now the SSC postponed its conclusions regarding sheep casings until further data and risk assessments would have become available. Recently the SSC received three additional analyses on the risk of exposure to the BSE agent through the use of natural sausage casings.

These were discussed by the SSC at its meeting of 12-13 September. From the SSC's discussions it can be concluded that there is currently no reason to include sheep casings in the list of specified risk materials as long as there is no evidence that BSE is present in small ruminants under field conditions and there are no indications pointing at an increased likelihood of such being the case.

The SSC nevertheless confirmed that, should the presence of BSE in sheep become probable or proven, the whole approach towards SRMs in small ruminants should be revised. The possible additional inclusion in the list of SRMs of intestines, lymph nodes, blood and peripheral nerves should then be considered unless the presence of BSE infectivity can be excluded on the basis of genotype, age, TSE test results, flocks certification and/or geographical origin.

The SSC further adopted three opinions on the geographical BSE risk of Israel, Malta and Slovenia. They are all considered to represent a "Level III risk", meaning that the presence of one or more cattle clinically or pre-clinically infected with the BSE agent is likely but not confirmed, or confirmed at a lower level.

The Committee considers that recent research results on the transmission of BSE infectivity by blood transfusion from experimentally infected to a healthy sheep strengthens the conclusions and recommendations put forward in earlier opinions on the safety of human and ruminant blood, but does not call for a revision of these opinions. These opinions contain recommendations with respect to the safe use of human blood and the recycling or disposal of ruminant blood.

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