Primary meat processors have urged the government to change “outdated regulations from BSE era” which apply to sheep but were originally created to stop humans developing diseases associated with “mad cows”.
EBLEX is the organisation for beef and lamb levy payers in England. Its aim is to enhance the profitability and sustainability of the sector. The head of the company, John Cross, suggests that some of the leftover regulations introduced in the mid-1990s during the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis are “no longer fit for purpose”.
Mr Cross suggested that standards should in no way be relaxed, but rather that risk-based measures would now be more appropriate.
He told audience members at the organisation’s annual conference: “Regulation must be the result of science-based risk assessment and management in order to protect and benefit society. Regulation in the food chain is essential for a safe consumer environment.
“In the past, regulations around BSE and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) more generally, along with SRM measures, were science-based and fit for purpose and I think we can all look back and feel reassured that the scientists got it right.”
During the conference, Mr Cross highlighted the fact that EBLEX believe TSE regulations are now outdated. He stated that the controls, which require older lamb carcasses be split to remove specified risk materials (SRM), add unnecessary cost to the industry and hinder international trade.
TSEs are progressive, fatal brain diseases that have long intervals between infection and detectability. BSE is a form of TSE specific to cattle, and the most widely known as a result of the outbreak in the mid-1990s.
Mr Cross added: “Thankfully, BSE is behind us but we have some legacy pieces of regulation left that are outdated and a hindrance to both trade and our international reputation.
“Regulation is essential in the food chain but let’s keep it live, scientifically informed, risk-based and fit for purpose. The current situation needs reviewing.”