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Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) - Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

EU Legislation

Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 (OJ L 147, p1, 31/05/2001) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 laying down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies

Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 has been amended on numerous occasions, the link above is to the consolidated version dated 30 July 2018

National Legislation

European Communities (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies) Regulations 2015 (S.I. No. 532 of 2015)

Amended by:

European Union (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 (S.I. No 156 of 2018)

Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 lays down rules for the prevention, control and eradication of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in animals. It applies to the production and placing on the market of live animals and products of animal origin and in certain specific cases to exports of live animals and products of animal origin. It requires that specified risk material is removed and disposed of in accordance with Annex V to Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 and with Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009 on animal by-proudcts. It defines specified risk material as:

The following tissues shall be designated as specified risk material if they come from animals whose origin is in a Member State or third country or of one of their region with a controlled or undetermined BSE risk:

  • as regards bovine animals:
  1. the skull excluding the mandible and including the brain and eyes, and the spinal cord of animals aged over 12 months;
  2. the vertebral column excluding the vertebrae of the tail, the spinous and transverse processes of the cervical, thoracic and lumbar vertebrae and the median sacral crest and wings of the sacrum, but including the dorsal root ganglia of animals aged over 30 months; and
  3. the tonsils, the intestines from the duodenum to the rectum and the mesentery of animals of all ages.
  • as regards ovine and caprine animals
  1. the skull including the brain and eyes, the tonsils and the spinal cord of animals aged over 12 months or which have a permanent incisor erupted through the gum, and
  2. the spleen and ileum of animals of all ages.

In order to ensure optimal consumer protection, Specified Risk Material (SRM) must be removed from the food and feed chain and disposed of as Category 1 material in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 999/2001 and Regulation (EC) No 1069/2009. In general terms SRM should be removed at the slaughterhouse under strictly controlled conditions. However the legislation takes account of the nature of beef trade on-the-bone, and in the case of vertebral column of bovine animals S.I. No. 532 of 2015 permits removal at points in the food chain later than the slaughterhouses, e.g. at cutting plants or retail outlets, if certain conditions are met. The S.I. also requires that retail outlets which handle, remove and store SRM are specifically authorised.

In order to comply with the  European Communities (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies and Animal By-products) Regulations, retail outlets which handle, remove and store SRM (i.e. vertebral column of bovine animals over 30 months) should have the following systems in place

Clear identification of any SRM vertebral column on the establishment.

  • Red stripe: At intake, all sides or wholesale cuts of beef containing vertebral column must have a label which would enable judgement of whether or not they are over 30 months, and hence contain SRM. Since 1 July 2017, the legislation requires that beef carcase labels on animals over 30 months must have a red stripe.
  • Blue Stripe: Prior to 30 June 2017, a blue stripe was used on the label of beef carcases under 30 months. Food business operators can continue to use a blue label in this manner for their own purposes
  • Documentation: At intake, a document must accompany the meat indicating whether any vertebral column in beef sides or wholesale cuts is SRM or not. eg an invoice might read 'Sides of beef from animals under 30 months', Sides of beef from animals over 30 months' or 'Sides of beef with vertebral column which is not SRM' or 'Sides of beef with vertebral column which must be removed as SRM'. This documentation must be kept for a period of one year .

Safe removal of SRM from products destined for human consumption.

  • Removal of SRM vertebral column must be performed in a separate space or time from other operations.
  • Removal must be performed by someone competent in the knowledge and skills required for removal of vertebral column, such as a trained craft butcher.
  • Removal must be followed by cleanup and sanitation of the area.
  • Wastewater drains in the SRM removal area must be fitted with a grid of maximum pore size of 6 mm. All waste trapped in these drains during the SRM removal procedure and the subsequent cleanup (Bone dust or fat accumulation) is Category 1 material

Proper separation, identification and disposal of Category 1 material

  • Following removal Category 1 material must be stored in dedicated leak-proof properly labelled containers.
  • It should be stained with patent Blue Dye ( E131 Patent Blue V at 0.5 % weight/volume solution ) prior to dispatch from your establishment.
  • It must be collected by an approved haulier for disposal at an approved rendering plant. Records of collection should be maintained for two years .
  • Containers should be managed hygienically with any wastewater screened to remove material greater than 6 mm as Category 1 material.

Further information on controls BSE is available on the website of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and also on the EU website.