BSE Testing Boost for Beef Chain

The age at which cattle entering the food chain require to be tested for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) will increase from 48 months to 72 months tomorrow (1 July), recognising the huge strides made to eradicate the disease across the EU.

Member States experts agreed to raise the testing age for BSE of cattle in February - a decision based on food safety evidence provided by the European Food Standards Agency in December 2010.   That decision comes into force tomorrow. 

Having made significant progress on its TSE Roadmap with regards to cattle, the Union will continue to press the European Commission to make similar evidence-based changes to the rules that affect older sheep entering the food chain.

NFU Scotland Livestock Committee Chairman, Rob Livesey said:

“This common-sense decision, based on a rapidly improving disease picture across Europe, is a welcome step along the way to finally removing the shadow that BSE has cast over the beef sector in the UK and Europe for more than two decades.  

“Moving the current BSE testing requirements from 48 months to cattle aged 72 months will strip out more of the cost associated with the BSE testing regime for cattle before the beef is allowed into the food chain.  That is good news for producers and processors and reassuring that for consumers food safety concerns have been given careful consideration.

“Increasing the testing age for BSE shows that, in terms of its TSE Roadmap, Europe is making progress on cattle but, sadly, that is not the case for sheep.

“Given the similar dramatic improvement in any TSE risk being associated with sheep, it is extraordinary that we still have an ongoing costly requirement for older sheep carcases to be split and spinal cord removed.  We welcome the trial work that is underway in the UK to look at alternative methods of spinal cord removal that avoids costly carcase splitting. However, our opinion remains that there is little justification for splitting to be necessary in the first place.  It puts a huge cost burden on the valuable trade in sheepmeat from older animals that, in food safety terms, is difficult to justify.”   

Notes to Editors

  • Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was first recognised and defined in the United Kingdom in November 1986 and was made a notifiable disease in June 1988. Over the next few years the epidemic grew considerably and peaked in the UK in 1992 at over 37,000 cases. There have been over 183,000 cases to date.
  • Scotland was BSE free in 2009 and 2010. Before that there were relatively low numbers of BSE cases in Scotland compared to the peak of the epidemic in the early 1990's.


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 120/11

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