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Consultation of proposed changes to BSE testing

31 October, 2008

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has today launched a joint consultation with the Food Standards Agency Northern Ireland (FSANI) on proposals to change the minimum age at which cattle are tested for BSE.

Under the proposals all cattle over 48 months of age, which are slaughtered for human consumption or fallen stock, would have to be BSE tested. Before this can happen the FSA Board and Health Ministers must agree the change in the testing age prior to it being implemented in the United Kingdom.

The Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 would be amended to administer the change.

The consultation will run from 31 October to 3 December 2008 and can be viewed at

Copies of the consultation can be obtained by contacting the Department at TSE Branch, Room 714, Dundonald House, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 3SB. Telephone: 028 9052 4289.

Comments are invited on any aspect of the proposals but they must be received by the department no later than 3 December 2008. The short consultation period is necessary to meet the EU's expected timetable and allow the possibility of applying these proposals from 1 January 2009.

Note to Editors

  1. Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) are fatal, degenerative brain diseases such as BSE in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans.
  2. On 14 October 2008, the EU agreed a draft Commission Decision which would allow the UK to amend its BSE surveillance programme to increase the age above which all healthy slaughtered or emergency slaughtered cattle, cattle showing clinical signs at ante-mortem inspection and fallen stock must be tested for BSE, to over 48 months. This age was determined on the basis of advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The draft decision also applies to the fourteen 'older' EU member States. The European Parliament has a one month right of scrutiny before the draft Commission Decision can be adopted.
  3. BSE will remain a notifiable disease and cattle of all ages reported as suspect clinical cases must continue to be tested. Controls on Specified Risk Material (SRM) e.g. brains and spinal cord, which are the key controls to protect public health will remain as currently, as will controls on animal feed which are the key controls to protect animal health.

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