The EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health adopted a series of transitional and permanent implementing measures as preparation for the application of the Animal By-Products Regulation on 1 May this year. Following rigorous safety evaluations, specific exemptions have been granted from the general standards. The Regulation lays down clear rules on what must and what may be done with animal materials that are excluded from the food chain.
"The imminent entry into force of this Regulation is a major achievement that will help control deficiencies in the feed sector to prevent future feed-borne crises such as BSE or dioxin contamination" said David Byrne, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection. "The Regulation sets out a transparent, comprehensive and directly applicable legal framework. The transitional and permanent measures adopted will facilitate its swift implementation."
The key objective of the Regulation is to revamp veterinary legislation on animal by-products (i.e. parts of a slaughtered animal that are not consumed by humans), so that it lives up to its fundamental objectives to ensure a high level of protection of animal and public health throughout Europe. This includes rules on new disposal options such as transformation of the materials into biogas. Only material derived from animals declared fit for human consumption following veterinary inspection may be used for the production of animal feed. Swill feeding (catering waste) will be banned for farmed animals except fur animals. The Regulation also prohibits "cannibalism" within species.
The Regulation classifies animal by-products into three categories based on their potential risk to animals, the public or the environment and sets out how each category must or may be disposed of. High-risk Category 1 materials must be completely disposed of as waste by incineration or landfilling after appropriate heat treatment while lower risk Category 2 materials may be recycled for uses other than feed (e.g. biogas, composting, oleo-chemical products, etc) after appropriate treatment. Only Category 3 materials (i.e. by-products derived from healthy animals slaughtered for human consumption) may be used in the production of animal feeds. (See Sept. 2002 press release IP/02/1361 for more details).
Transitional measures on catering waste and used cooking oil
The Regulation bans the feeding of catering waste to farmed animals other than fur animals. Transitional measures under strictly controlled circumstances have been agreed for Austria (until 30 April 2004) and Germany (until 31 October 2006). Similar transitional measures for used cooking oil in animal feed will allow industry in the UK and Ireland to adapt their business practices. The transitional measures for used cooking oil will last until 31 October 2004.
Burial and burning of animal carcasses on the farm
Sometimes burial and burning of animal carcasses, including those containing specified risk materials, cannot be avoided, particularly in remote areas or in emergency situations. Current EU rules allow this practice, if authorised and supervised by the competent authority. The Regulation maintains this but will limit the practice to the disposal of dead pet animals, and to remote areas and certain cases of disease outbreaks. In addition, the implementing measures clarify safe methods of burning and burial to avoid any spread of risk material by for example ensuring that the animal by-products are completely burned to ash and in the case of burial that carnivores cannot eat them. Transitional arrangements have been made for small incinerators commonly used at hunt kennels, knackers' yards and poultry and pig farms to allow these to adapt to the new conditions placed upon them. This will particularly affect the UK. The transitional period for small incinerators will last until 31 December 2004.
Special derogation for fur animals and fish
The feeding of waste of farmed fish to farmed fish of the same species will be prohibited to avoid recycling of specific fish diseases of farmed fish. However, in line with a scientific risk assessment, a permanent derogation has been granted to all Member States to allow farmed fish to be fed with feed derived from wild fish of the same species. Similarly, a derogation has been granted allowing fur animals to be fed with waste arising from the same species, subject to strict health conditions for the fur animals (eg TSE surveillance), ensuring the safety of the raw materials and processing standards, record keeping, official surveillance etc. Only Finland intends to make use of this derogation.
Protecting endangered bird species
Many necrophagous birds, such as vultures, are endangered. The destruction of animal by-products will further reduce the available food supply for these species. Since scientific opinion has shown that the risk of these birds acting as BSE transmitters is negligible, the Commission agreed to allow certain Category 1 risk material, such as dead ruminants, to continue to be used to feed necrophagous birds. This derogation will mainly affect Greece, Spain, France, Italy and Portugal and will benefit, for instance, the entire European population of bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), consisting of around 100 pairs in the Pyrenees.
Transitional period for third countries
The rigorous measures required by the Regulation will also apply to our trading partners. However, a transitional period is also needed to allow, inter alia, for the Commission to make technical amendments to the import certificates, for the measures to be notified to the WTO and for a further period of consultation with third countries. It has therefore been agreed to offer a general transitional period for third countries lasting until 31 December 2003. During this period, the existing and still strict EU rules on imports will continue to apply.
Other transitional measures granted
Other transitional measures that have been granted to a number of Member States cover composting and biogas standards, manure processing, the collection of wastewater, treatment of mammalian blood and separation standards in oleo-chemical plants, processing plants and intermediate plants, and the collection and disposal of former foodstuffs.