BRUSSELS (B)--The European Union Commission announced it adopted May 3 a proposal to remove specified risk materials (SRM) for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease, from the animal and human food chain in an attempt to harmonize rules across the EU. In addition, the EU is proposing to prohibit certain slaughtering techniques that carry a risk of animal blood contamination by BSE-infected brain tissue.

"Removal of SRM is the single biggest contribution that can be made to reducing the risk to humans from BSE and thereby reducing the possibility of human infection by (new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease)," said the Commission in a written statement.

The new strategy follows continuous and recently reinforced scientific advice to remove highly risky tissues from the food and feed chain, the statement said.

"Additionally the first ever diagnosis of BSE in a native Danish cow in March this year raised more doubts about the BSE-free status of many countries without reported BSE," the Commission said.

According to the proposal, all member states must remove the skull, including the brains and eyes, the tonsils, and spinal cord of cattle, sheep and goats older than 12 months, the ileum of cattle older than 12 months and the ileum and spleen of sheep and goats of all ages. In high risk countries, such as the UK and Portugal, the entire head excluding the tongue, thymus, spleen, intestines and the vertebral column of animals over six months must also be removed.

Measures to prohibit the use of certain slaughtering techniques with risk of contaminating animal blood by BSE-infected brain tissue follows scientific advice presented to the Commission in late April.

The proposal will be submitted May 10 to the EU Standing Veterinary Committee, which represents EU member states. If the Standing Veterinary Committee accepts the proposal, it will be formally adopted by the Commission and enter into force July 1.

"The decision will be subject to review in the light of new scientific evidence. The provisions of the decision will be repealed when the proposed Council and European Parliament Regulation for the prevention and control of certain transmittable encephalopathies enters into force."

Currently, eight member states have already introduced their own national rules for removing risk materials in the food chain. Those countries are Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK.

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