Wednesday, 29 August 2007

EU Lifts Quarantine on British Exports

On 23 August, the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health backed the draft decision of the European Commission to limit the restriction on the export of live animals meat and dairy products only to the 10km surveillance zone in Surrey, which had otherwise been in force across the UK until now. Hence, the ban on British exports to EU countries has been lifted. Therefore, the export of live animals, meat and dairy products will start again within the territory of Great Britain, excluding the 10 km zone in the county of Surrey, on 25 August – when the decision entered into force. However, the trade in meat, milk and live animal exports will be subjected to stringent controls and veterinary supervision. This decision and the remaining restrictions will be reviewed at a meeting of the EU Standing Committee, scheduled for 11 September 2007. The export ban has been costing farmers £10m per week.

On 3 August, the UK authorities confirmed an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) on a farm in Surrey. The European Commission was informed by the British veterinary authorities that an outbreak of FMD has been officially declared. The Council Directive 2003/85/EC of 29 September 2003 lays down Community measures for the control of foot-and-mouth aimed at regaining the disease- and infection-free status of the affected territory.

Member States must have emergency plans in operation and national reference laboratories must collaborate with the Community Reference Laboratory. All measures foreseen in the above mentioned EU legislation were immediately applied in the UK following the suspicion and subsequent confirmation of the disease including the culling of all animals in the infected premises, the establishment of a 3 km (1.8 mile) protection zone and a surveillance zone around the premises of 10km (6.2 miles), where strict movement restrictions are applied as well as increased biosecurity measures.

According to the Directive, Member States shall ensure that the measures applied in the protection zone are kept at least 15 days since the killing and safe disposal of all the animals of susceptible species from the holding and the completion of the preliminary cleansing and disinfection on that holding is carried out. On 6 August, the Commission adopted a new decision (Decision 2007/552/EC) which laid down interim protection measures reinforcing the measures taken by the UK authorities in reaction to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The European Commission identified the whole of Great Britain as a high risk area and adopted an emergency measure that all live animals susceptible to FMD (cattle, sheep, goats and pigs), or products from these animals could not be exported from Great Britain.

Then, on 8 August, at an emergency session, the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health – consisting of representatives from the Member States and chaired by a European Commission representative – voted unanimously in favour of a decision to confirm the measures taken by the Commission in line with EU legislation. Hence, the Standing Committee agreed that the whole of Great Britain should remain a high risk zone. On 9 August, the European Commission adopted a decision concerning certain protection measures against foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom and repealing decision 2007/552/EC which applied until 25 August. This decision provided for measures which are in accordance with the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal health’s opinion. No live animals shall be dispatched from or moved through Great Britain. Moreover, the United Kingdom shall not dispatch meats coming from or obtained from animals originating in Great Britain. In the same way, the UK shall not export meat products of animals coming from Great Britain as well as milk and dairy products. It should be noted that the 2001 foot and mouth epidemic outbreak cost the UK economy approximately eight billion pounds. According to Breakingnews, Guy Attenborough, Meat and Livestock Commission’s head of communications said “the export ban will mean a loss of £10m per week to UK red meat businesses.”

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