Final Report of an Audit Conducted In Four European Union Member States February 3rd Through February 21st, 2014
Evaluating The Food Safety Systems Governing The Production of  Beef And Beef Products For Export To Canada

8. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Specified Risk Material (SRM) Controls

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The CFIA auditors evaluated BSE and SRM controls, including a review of the mechanisms for animal identification and passport, disposal of SRM products, implementation of the requirements for non-ambulatory disabled cattle and SRM, and procedures for emergency slaughter.

As of May 2013, with the exception of Romania, which still has an undetermined risk status for BSE, all the other 27 MSs have at least been officially recognised as having a controlled BSE risk status by the OIE. Out of these, 8 countries have even achieved the negligible BSE risk status. All MSs must implement the EU Regulation of EC no. 999/2001 laying down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). In accordance with Annex V of this rule, operators are mandated to remove all SRM. This means, as it relates to bovine animals, the skull excluding the mandible and including the brain and eyes, and the spinal cord of bovine animals over 12 months of age. In addition, it includes the vertebral column excluding the vertebrae of the tail, the spinous and transverse processes of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and the median sacral crest and wings of the sacrum, but including the dorsal root ganglia of bovine animal over 30 months. Finally, it includes also the tonsils, the intestines from the duodenum to the rectum and the mesentery of animals of all ages. The SRM is handled as category 1 product as per EU Regulation of EC No 1774/2002 laying down health rules concerning animal by-products not intended for human consumption and it must be disposed of in such a manner that it is not allowed to be recycled into the animal food chain.

Emergency slaughter (i.e. slaughter outside the establishment) can be performed in EU in accordance with the chapter VI of section I, annex III of Regulation of EC No 853/2004. The meat derived from these animals may be placed exclusively on the market of the MS where the slaughter of such animal took place. Such meat cannot be exported. As part of their surveillance program, all bovine animals above 48 months of age undergoing emergency slaughter are normally subjected to BSE testing before being approved. For certain MSs, the age triggering such procedures can be lower.

EU requires MSs to implement robust traceability system. All animals must be identified at the holding by an ear tag approved by the competent authorityFootnote 4, applied to each ear. The ear tags can differentiate imported cattle from native one, as two-letters country code must be included as the prefix of the identification number on the tag. For example, Letter "FR" is added in front of the numerical identification number of bovine originating from France. In addition, the animal must be accompanied by movement document (passport) developed by the CCA before going to slaughter. Cattle arriving at the plant must have a valid passport before being eligible to slaughter. This individual passport contains lot of information about the animal (e.g. identification, age, sex, etc.). There is no specific requirement for segregating meat products derived from cattle age over thirty month and older unless it is required for specific export market.

BSE/SRM controls were generally well implemented and maintained. However, following shortcomings were identified by the auditors:

  • In 7 out of 10 establishments, the lingual tonsils were not properly removed from the edible tongues. Point 7 of Annex V to Regulation of EC no. 999/2001 requires the operator to harvest the edible tongues from animals of all ages by a transverse cut rostral to the lingual process of the basihyoid bone.
  • In three establishments, procedures used for severing the head (i.e. cutting through the spinal cord) had a potential for cross contamination.
  • In two of the establishment visited, category 1 product was disposed of as category 3 product.

Details are available in the specific MSs Annexes.

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