30 January Agriculture Council

Series Title
Series Details 01/02/01, Volume 7, Number 05
Publication Date 01/02/2001
Content Type

Date: 01/02/01

EU farm ministers supported a recommendation by scientific experts to ban the vertebral columns of cattle from animal and human consumption as part of additional measures to tackle the BSE crisis. Food safety Commissioner David Byrne said he would come forward in the next few weeks with a proposal for new safeguards that would “closely follow” the scientific advice.

If the move is approved by Union veterinary experts it could lead to a ban on the sale of T-bone steaks and other specialist beef products such as osso buco and oxtail. Byrne added that he would propose additional safety measures, including a prohibition on mechanically recovered meat and tougher rules for heating animal fats used in feed production.

AGRICULTURE Commissioner Franz Fischler warned that the cost of dealing with the spread of mad cow disease, which has been found in all but two of the 15 EU member states, could break the spending limits for the farm sector agreed two years ago in Berlin. “The crisis on the beef market goes further than one might think,” Fischler told ministers. “The latest market indications are alarming.” Officials said the cost of dealing with the crisis could amount to €6.8 billion over the next five years.

THE European Commission has €1 billion in the budget for 2001 to deal with the BSE crisis but has warned that if beef consumption drops by more than 10&percent; this sum would not be enough and savings would have to be found in other areas of agricultural spending. Fischler said sales of beef had already fallen by 27&percent; across the Union in the immediate wake of the new BSE scare, but officials said the year-on-year change might not be as large. In Germany, which has seen the strongest public reaction to the discovery of BSE cases, prices have fallen by 36&percent; and consumption is down 50&percent;.

FISCHLER urged more member states to make use of a purchase-for-destruction scheme to keep unwanted cattle off the market rather than rely on government buy-ups of surplus meat. “Buying into public intervention is not only a solution for budget restrictions but also for storage capacity limitation,” he said. “If we do this, farm expenditures would simply explode, which would lead to cuts in other areas.” The scheme, in which cattle aged 30 months are bought and then destroyed so that they are taken out of the food chain, has been widely used in France and Ireland but only to a lesser extent in Spain and Luxembourg. Germany will decide later this week whether to implement it. “This scheme is a lesser evil,” Fischler said. “It is cheaper and offers a solution to farmers who cannot sell their animals.”

MINISTERS also held a discussion on new welfare standards for pigs and Commission plans to simplify farm policy by scrapping paperwork for farmers receiving less than €1,000 a year in support.

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