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Today ANSES publishes its Opinion on the abolition of BSE slaughterhouse tests

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News of 30/04/2013

As the epidemiological situation improves with regard to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the age limit for cattle subject to mandatory testing at the slaughterhouse has gradually been raised. In 2011, ANSES therefore recommended that the age limit for cattle testing be set at 7 years. Since January 2013, the European Commission has authorised Member States to abstain from systematic screening for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) at the slaughterhouse. These countries however have maintained systematic screening for BSE on dead animals collected through rendering and on animals slaughtered in emergency situations (accidents, etc.). ANSES was asked by the Ministry of Agriculture to provide its opinion on the prospect of abolishing systematic screening for BSE at the slaughterhouse on healthy animals.

In an Opinion issued today, the Agency first emphasised that consumer protection with regard to the classical BSE agent was based on the removal of SRM (Specified Risk Material)  at the slaughterhouse, while the role of screening tests was mainly epidemiological. 

To provide proper epidemiological surveillance of BSE, the Agency considers that monitoring healthy animals at the slaughterhouse is less effective than the monitoring performed during the rendering process; it therefore stressed the key role of this latter activity.  

ANSES however points out that for those rare cases of atypical BSE (0 to 1 case detected per year at the slaughterhouse), the opinion of the experts is less categorical due to the lack of available data on tissue distribution of this agent. Because of this, ANSES recommends reinforcing research efforts on this issue.  



Summary: BSE risk control measures 

Following the epidemic outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Great Britain in 1986, risk mitigation measures were implemented in France and throughout Europe. These measures are based on the removal and destruction of certain carcass tissues, the prohibiting of animal meal in feed for production animal species, and the implementation of active surveillance programmes for these diseases and of veterinary control measures. As for BSE surveillance, the use of rapid BSE diagnostic tests was set up in late 2000 both for the slaughter and rendering of cattle over a certain age limit. 

The number of cases of classical BSE has been decreasing continually since 2002 in both France and across Europe. As the BSE epidemiological situation improves, a gradual easing up of certain management measures has begun to be considered by the European Commission. With regard to surveillance, this has resulted in the raising of the age limit for cattle subject to mandatory testing.