Were UK rules on SRM relaxed to bring them into line with EU rules?

A. In order to comply with Decision 2000/418, the UK with effect from 01 October removed thymus and intestine of bovines aged 6 months or under from the definition of SRM in our national SRM controls.

SEAC considered the Commission’s proposals for a Decision on SRM at its meeting on 11 May. The Committee welcomed the proposals and agreed they would represent a significant step forward even though they would require some adjustments to the present UK SRM controls. On balance, the Committee felt that the benefit of introducing SRM controls across the EU would outweigh the slight increase in risk that may arise from any consequential change to the UK controls.

Have there been any further changes to the definitions of SRM?

A. Yes. Following further scientific advice from the SSC, the Commission adopted Decision 2001/2 on the 27 December designating the intestines of bovine animals of all ages as SRM from the 01 January 2001 in all Member States.

Q. Has this change been adopted into UK law?

A. Yes. This has now been transposed into domestic legislation in the Specified Risk Material (England) Amendment (No.3) Order and the Specified Risk Material (England) Amendment (No.2) Regulations.

Q. How can we be sure that the current list of SRM tissues removes all BSE risk?

A. The SRM controls have been regularly reviewed and strengthened on the basis of developing scientific evidence by SEAC. In December 2000 the Food Standards Agency published a review of BSE controls which recommended that the current rules on SRM should be retained in their current form.

Q. What happens to the SRM after removal and how do we know it is disposed of safely?

A. Once SRM has been removed from the carcase and stained in accordance with the Specified Risk Material Regulations 1997 it must be sent without unreasonable delay directly to an approved premises. The types of premises which may be approved include collection centres, incinerators and rendering plants.

The Regulations apply strict rules on the handling, storage and treatment of SRM at these premises. SRM must be disposed of by prescribed and controlled methods which include rendering or incineration. The controls extend to the products of rendering - protein and tallow - which may be disposed of by burial at a licensed landfill site, incineration or other approved method.

It is a problem in that initially it was difficult to find adequate incineration plants for the MBM that was produced after rendering. Howerver, at least in the UK, all that is produced is then incinerated.

When and why were controls for Specified Bovine Material (SBM) first introduced?

A. Controls prohibiting the use of certain bovine offals in human food were first introduced in November 1989, following scientific advice on tissues which were known to, or might potentially, harbour detectable BSE infectivity in infected animals. These tissues - now known as Specified Risk Material (SRM) - originally comprised the brain, the spinal cord, the spleen, the thymus, the tonsils and the intestines of bovine animals aged six months or over.

Q. When and why were these controls extended to cover Sheep and Goat Material?

A. SEAC, (the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee) first reported to the Government the potential risk to human health from TSEs in sheep in July 1996. The report focused mainly on the possibility that BSE could be transmitted to sheep. SEAC recommended that the Government give early consideration to removing the brains of sheep, from any source, aged over six months from the human food chain.

Legislation to implement this recommendation was introduced in September 1996, and banned the use of heads from sheep and goats of all ages (with the exception of animals born, reared and slaughtered in Australia or New Zealand).