News last update:6 Aug 2012

Relaxing animal feed ban meets opposition

Proposals to lift the ban on having meat-and-bone-meal back into livestock rations have resulted in a fierce debate, mainly in the UK and France.

EU experts have said they want the rule relaxed to allow pig feed to be supplemented with poultry remains and vice versa.

But farming leaders and scientists said that while such a practice may be safe, it would not be countenanced by the public. Supermarkets have also stressed that they would not sell meat produced in this way.

Pressure to ease the seven-year old ban comes from the EU's Economic and Social Committee (EESC). Minutes from a meeting held by the committee in December say tests have already shown there is no safety risk from adding pig remains to chicken or poultry parts to pig feed.

To this end the EU has invested around €1.5 million to develop tests designed to distinguish between different types of animal feed.

EESC statement
Following an article in the London Times newspaper ('Food safety fears over animals fed to animals'), the EESC released a statement to ease the uproar.

Following the BSE-TSE crisis, a series of restrictive measures were taken in order to combat BSE including an agreement on a ban of feeding meat-and-bone meal to pigs and poultry, which was reached by the Council of Ministers. This ban (in place since 1 January 2001) was to be kept under review.

What the opinion set out to do
In the context of this review, this own-initiative opinion by the Committee on the disposal of animal carcasses and the use of processed animal proteins in the feeding of livestock:

  • looked into the recent scientific evidence concerning the risk of transmission of BSE-TSE in livestock;
  • and discussed the possibility of reducing restrictions that concern the production and use of processed animal proteins including meat-and-bone meal in livestock,
  • focusing on the economic implications;
  • but while also giving all due importance to the protection of animal and human health.
The own-initiative opinion was intended to ensure an appropriate follow-up to previous initiatives by the Committee on animal by-products and the BSE-TSE risk, and provided an opportunity to update an Opinion adopted by the Committee in 2001 on health rules concerning animal by-products not intended for human consumption.

The most important conclusions
The Committee did not and does not ask to lift the ban of feeding meat-and-bone meal to pigs and poultry.

"The EESC suggests that the European Commission pursue and step up as swiftly as possible the studies currently under way which clearly show that the use of meat meal from non-ruminants can be used in pig and poultry feed without posing any danger to human health".

"As soon as the current studies have been completed, by-products from these (healthy) animals, which have been slaughtered in separate abattoirs, should be used in the production of meat meal, the protein in which is clearly identifiable and fully traceable".

In order to avoid any misunderstandings the following should be underlined: The Committee Opinion does not talk about cows - only about non-ruminants.

The opinion explicitly discusses measures to avoid cannibalism. According to all available studies, non-ruminants such as pigs and poultry are not responsible for diseases like BSE and TSE.

"The way in which proteins are identified and the methods used to trace the meat meal in which they are found must give consumers a cast-iron guarantee that pigs are fed on meat meal obtained exclusively from the by-products of poultry, and that poultry is fed on meat meal obtained exclusively from the by-products of pigs".

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