November 25, 2003



EU Edge Closer Towards Removing Ban On Fishmeal in Animal Feed


The European Union vets have edged closer towards removing the bloc's long-standing ban on fishmeal in animal feed by authorising a new test to trace minute quantities of risk material, officials said last Friday.


But the ban, imposed nearly three years ago due to fear of mad cow disease, is unlikely to be ended for the best part of a year because national governments will have to begin using the test and make sure it works properly, they said.


In January 2001, the EU banned fishmeal from cattle, sheep and goat feed since it feared the meal might become contaminated with meat and bone meal (MBM) - thought to spread mad cow disease, or BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy).


The test will distinguish between fishmeal protein and other ruminant protein and can trace very small amounts of mammalian proteins in fishmeal.


In theory, it can detect 0.1% mammalian proteins in feed that contains 5% fishmeal.


"It's a method that makes it possible to see what risk there is in animal feed, to see if there is only fishmeal in the fishmeal," said an official at the European Commission.


"We have to give member states time to put this into national legislation. This will only enter into force on July 1, 2004," he said. "Then we have to check results and see if it is well implemented in all the member states, and if it works."


In itself, fishmeal, which is used as a supplement in animal feeds, does not pose a BSE risk. Within the EU, about 20% of fishmeal is used in the poultry and pig sectors.


Mad cow disease first reached epidemic proportions in Britain, sparking a worldwide scare that led to trade restrictions on beef and animal feed and the mass slaughter of livestock believed to be at risk of infection.