Government asked to lobby intensely for raising of 24 month vertebral column removal age limit

UK - The National Beef Association has asked Defra to prepare an intense lobbying effort to persuade the European Commission to lift the 24 month age limit for the removal of vertebral column from cattle carcases.
calendar icon 27 February 2007
clock icon 3 minute read
It has suggested that the campaign should be conducted with the same breadth and thoroughness as the successful attempt to lift the beef export ban in May last year – and should involve the Secretary of State, David Milliband, as well as senior government and SVS officials.

Currently vertebral column must be removed from the carcases of all EU cattle over 24 months old, then stained, and routed through Specific Risk Material (SRM) channels as a Category One product which cannot be further processed and must be destroyed.

This was a condition of the UK’s export ban being lifted but the domestic beef industry is so alarmed at the depth of the added cost of vertebral column removal, and the effort that must be made to cover its direction through approved disposal routes, that it wants to see the age limit raised to at least 30 months as soon as possible.

“The European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) is currently examining a proposal to lift the age limit beyond 24 months and its recommendation is expected to be made public sometime over the next month,” explained NBA chairman Duff Burrell.

“No moves can be made until this happens or if the EFSA position is negative. However we would like government to anticipate that EFSA’s move will be positive and so be ready to immediately launch a campaign aimed at persuading specialists on the European Commission’s working groups, and its Standing Committee of Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH), that raising the age to at least 30 months is proportionate to both risk and cost and should be adopted as quickly as legal and administrative processes allow.”

When the UK governments, and the beef industry, successfully campaigned for the lifting of the beef export ban their efforts were backed by the Secretary of State, Chief Veterinary Officers and other senior UK officials.

“We think our suggestion deserves this depth of backing because the 24 month rule not only adds huge costs to the delivery of beef from 24-30 month old cattle, and provokes discounts of perhaps £40 a head for some cattle at some markets, it has also added to the pressure on disposal routes for Category One SRM,” said Mr Burrell.

“Everyone in the UK beef industry would be a great deal more comfortable if the ages for vertebral column removal and BSE brain testing were harmonised so there were no longer two separate control systems.”

” If Mr Milliband could talk to his opposite numbers in key EU countries and this exercise was repeated at CVO and SCoFCAH representation level then the lifting of the 24 month age limit may be achieved a little earlier than some EU countries had expected.”

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