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Minister announces change to BSE Depopulation Policy

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Ms Mary Coughlan TD, today announced that she was replacing compulsory whole herd depopulation policy when BSE is confirmed in herds with a partial depopulation regime.

Ms Coughlan said that the whole-herd depopulation policy had been initially introduced as a national measure to meet export market and certification requirements for beef and dairy products and to protect individual farmers who were finding it difficult to sell produce. The policy has been kept under ongoing review in recent years and, following the most recent review, it was concluded that it was appropriate that the policy should now be discontinued and replaced with a partial depopulation regime.

The Minister said that the decision had been informed by a number of issues, including, in particular, the continuing and significant decline in the incidence of the disease in Ireland, developments at EU and international level - including the forthcoming lifting of the UK ban - and, significantly, the comprehensive range of effective control measures currently in place.

The Minister said that the decision to discontinue the whole-herd depopulation policy was possible only because of the control measures that had operated in recent years and those currently in place.

In this regard, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has indicated that on the basis that all the other measures would continue to be implemented, there is no increased risk to consumer health arising from the ending of the whole-herd depopulation policy.

In the BSE context, the principal consumer protection measure continues to be the exclusion of specified risk material (SRM) from the food chain. There are, in addition, a range of other measures, including ante- and post-mortem inspections, ongoing active surveillance, rapid testing of animals destined for the food chain and the compulsory notification of suspect cases. Minister Coughlan said that "we continue to operate a very robust control regime which is designed to provide maximum public health protection and consumer confidence. We cannot and will not ever compromise on the issue of food safety and consumers can be assured that nothing changes in that regard as a consequence of today's announcement".

The existing policy will be replaced by a partial depopulation regime which will involve the removal of the (i) the BSE positive animal(s), (ii) birth and feed cohorts (as defined in EU legislation(1)) and (iii) the progeny, with compensation paid at market value. This approach is in line with EU legislation and OIE requirements and it is now the standard practice in the majority of member states.

The Minister confirmed that her Department had advised the dairy and beef industries and the main farming organisations of her decision earlier today.

5 April 2006

(1) 'Cohort' is defined in Regulation 999/2001 as follows - 'a group of bovine animals which were (i) born in the same herd as the affected animal, and within 12 months preceding or following the birth of the affected animal or (ii) reared together with the affected bovine animal at any time during the first year of their life and which may have consumed the same feed as that which the affected bovine animal consumed during the first year of its life.'

Date Released: 05 April 2006