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EU committee says risk 'negligible' for UK meat on bone

The EU Scientific Steering Committee says that the risk associated with meat on the bone in the UK is negligible, provided safety measures issued by the UK government are put in place.

In an opinion on the safety for human consumption of animal bones and blood, issued on 19 A...
The EU Scientific Steering Committee says that the risk associated with meat on the bone in the UK is negligible, provided safety measures issued by the UK government are put in place.

In an opinion on the safety for human consumption of animal bones and blood, issued on 19 April, the committee said the risk of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) contamination associated with meat on the bone had decreased significantly since December 1997.

However, the opinion said measures such as the EU-wide ban of meat-and-bone in ruminant feed had decreased the risk of BSE in sheep and goats, and recommended the removal of all high-risk materials from the food chain.

Updating its previous opinion of 1997, the committee recommends that the skull and spinal cord of sheep and goats over 12 months and the spleen of animals of all ages be removed from the food chain. As long as no BSE in sheep or goats is found, the committee sees no need to go beyond these precautions.

However in high-risk countries such as the UK, the use of the vertebral column of cattle as raw material for producing gelatine and tallow for human and animal consumption is not considered safe by the committee. Research into the safety of intestine and lymph nodes in all countries is still ongoing and results are required to improve risk assessment in this area.

The committee also recommended the elimination of certain slaughter methods where there is a risk of contamination of animal blood by the release of BSE-infected brain tissue into animals' bloodstream. In situations where a BSE or scrapie risk exists, the recycling of ruminants into feed should be avoided.

The scientists were unable to quantify the minimum exposure to BSE that causes infection in humans of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), nor was it able to quantify the barrier for transmission of infection from animals to humans. It therefore recommended the hypothesis that consuming a very small amount of contaminated bovine products may cause vCJD.

The committee agreed with Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne that an independent body for food safety be established, but recommended extending its mandate beyond food safety to all public health issues for which sufficient resources should be provided.

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