In 2005 the European Commission published a TSE Roadmap setting out its strategies for the control of BSE in cattle and related diseases in other species. Amongst other things, the Roadmap envisaged a range of possible changes in animal feed legislation, and the European Commission is believed to be formulating proposals to be put to the Member States in 2008.
Following earlier bans on the use of mammalian meat and bone meal in feeds for cattle and other ruminants, one of the principal weapons employed since 2001 to control BSE is the so-called total feed ban. This was triggered by research results indicating that an extremely low dose of infective material (around 1mg of BSE-infected cattle brain) is capable of infecting another ruminant, and by consultations indicating that low-level cross-contamination within feed supply routes and in animal feeding systems was not at that time totally controlled.
Under the total feed ban, with only minor exceptions, it is illegal to use processed animal protein (PAP) in feeds for any animals farmed for the production of food. The Commission is expected to propose partial and specific relaxations of this ban, and gave some indications in the Roadmap of how this might be approached. UK Ministers will need to establish an informed, robust and defensible policy response in readiness for the debate on the Commission proposals.
This study would provide detailed information on actual animal feeding arrangements in the UK, and evaluate them in relation to the likely thrust of changes in feed legislation. Data would be assembled on the importance of particular materials, their uses, and their relevance to potential cross-contamination issues.
The study would seek to cover all significant origins of feed materials and the routes by which they eventually arrive and are used on farms and other production facilities, whether as individual feed materials (straights), simple combinations of a few feed materials (coarse mixes and blends) or fully balanced diets (compound feeds) comprising many ingredients and produced in feed mills. It would include investigation at the initial producers of some feed materials and at final users of feeds, and would extend to certain risks of cross-contamination not directly related to feed preparation or handling, such as the use of PAP as a fertiliser. It would draw on a wide range of experience and expertise to identify and evaluate potential hazards which might result from changes to the total feed ban, and examine the likely effectiveness of enforcement measures and industry assurance schemes in controlling those hazards.
The study would therefore result in a report identifying, in relation to a broad scenario in which significant changes in feed legislation were proposed, where and how risks of cross-contamination might occur, the relative magnitude of those risks, and the measures in place to control or eliminate them. The report should in itself assist Ministers in evolving an overall strategy on implementation of the Roadmap, although more highly focussed studies might be required in the light of the specific proposals which eventually emerge.