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Minister Coughlan welcomes commitment to change the rules on Vertebral Column

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Mary Coughlan TD, today welcomed confirmation from Commissioner Markos Kyprianou that he will propose a measure to increase the age limit, from 24 months to 30 months, for the removal of vertebral column in cattle.

Minister Coughlan said that she had again pressed for increases in the age limits for the removal of the vertebral column and for testing cattle at slaughter at her recent meeting with the Commissioner "In light of the continuing decline in the incidence of BSE, not alone in Ireland but throughout the EU, changes to the BSE control regime were fully justifiable without jeopardising either food safety or disease control," she said. The Minister continued, saying she was hopeful that this proposal was indicative of a greater willingness on the part of the Commission to also consider proposing an increase in the age limit for testing healthy slaughtered cattle above the present 30 months.

The Minister said that when adopted this will be the second time in two years that the age limit for the removal of vertebral column will have been increased following the increase from 12 to 24 months in December 2005. This forthcoming increase will be of benefit to those butchers who are authorised to handle specified risk material (SRM), who will be able to sell beef on the bone from cattle up to 30 months of age. It will also benefit those butchers who choose not to handle SRM and who will be able to take in and sell beef on the bone from cattle up to 30 months.

The Minister concluded by reiterating her commitment to continue pressing the Commission to raise the age at which healthy slaughtered animals are tested for BSE from its current 30 month level, not least given the dramatic decline in the incidence of the disease in Ireland over the past five years.

31 July 2007

Date Released: 31 July 2007