Agency welcomes first step in restoring beef-on-the bone age limit

The Food Standards Agency has welcomed the steps taken by the European Commission in restoring a situation that might allow consumers to buy beef-on-the-bone from cattle aged up to 30 months.

A unanimous vote was taken on 3 October by the European Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) to raise the age at which bovine vertebral column is classified as specified
risk material (SRM) from 24 months to 30 months of age.

This was the position that existed in the UK prior to May 2006, when UK harmonisation with the controls in place in the rest of the European Union required a reduction in the age at which
cattle could be sold with vertebral column attached from 30 to 24 months.

SRM is those parts of an animal most likely to contain infectivity if the animal were to have BSE.

The proposal represents negligible risk to consumers.

The vote takes Europe a step closer to enabling trade in bone-in carcases and part carcases from cattle up to 30 months of age without the restrictions imposed by SRM controls.

Before any legal changes are made that would permit this trade, the proposal will be subject to a three-month scrutiny by the European Parliament. If the European Parliament is content with the
proposal the Agency expects it would come into force in early 2008.

The change would only come into force on completion of the scrutiny process. In advance of any change in legislation, food businesses must continue to comply with current SRM requirements.

The Agency intends to use the three-month European Parliament scrutiny period to hold a public consultation on the proposal.

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