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Removal of OTMS requires ending of Beef Ban

1 November, 2004

Sinn Féin Agriculture Spokesperson, Fermanagh South Tyrone MP Michelle Gildernew speaking after meeting officials from DARD has said that the removal of the Over Thirty Months Scheme must take place within a timeframe close to the ending of the Beef Ban.

Ms Gildernew said:

"The removal of the OTMS without the ending of the Beef Ban would cause considerable problems for the industry. Not only would there be serious problems in finding a market for this product because the Beef Ban restricts the export of beef but also because the UK restricts beef of over thirty months.

"It is also clear that while any progress in gaining regional status would have some benefits, the UK would continue to exclude our OTMS beef.

"This demands a clear plan of action to remove the Beef Ban.

"The European Food Safety Authority are fairly happy with the protocols on traceability and the testing of animals which are in place here. They are also content that the risk associated with beef from the North is about the same from other European countries.

"The biggest difficulties come from widespread criticisms of the UK testing regime, particularly from the European Food & Veterinary Office (FVO). However their report gives the North a fairly clean bill of health. Both The Food Safety Authority and the European FSA are content with our testing and monitoring.

"Yet the Department of Health believe that the risks are still too high within the UK. The Chief Medical officers have some concerns based on UK risk analysis and the testing regime. They believe that the comparative sample taken in the North compared to the amount of animals tested within the UK is too low. This means that we need to ensure that a wider sample is taken.

"To meet any concerns about the sampling it is vital that the Six Counties has the required capacity in place to test animals over thirty months.

"Clearly handing over control of the testing to the Food Safety Authority is also something which should also be looked at.

"Because of the poor compliance in the UK we will have to put our own case forward for the removal of the OTMS scheme and the lifting of the Beef ban on a regional basis. While it could take the UK anything up to 2 years before they have all the necessary measures in place I believe that we could put in place a strategy for progress within a much shorter timeframe." ENDS

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