§ Mr. Boswell
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he proposes to take any further action in the light of the Southwood report on bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The Government have already taken wide-ranging action to deal with this new disease problem and has acted on all the recommendations made by the Southwood working party which was set up to look at all aspects of the disease, including any human health implications.
Although the Southwood working party regarded the risk to humans as remote, the Government acted on its recommendation that, as a precautionary measure, all cattle suspected as having BSE should he slaughtered and destroyed to take them out of the food chain.
As a matter of extreme prudence, the Southwood working party also suggested that certain offals should not be used in the manufacture of baby foods. We established in February that these offals are not in fact currently used by baby food manufacturers. In order to provide even more reassurance to the public, I indicated then that we would bring forward regulations to ensure that there is no possibility of their use in the future.
In working out the details, I have concluded that a better way of dealing with this would be to ensure that the relevant types of bovine offals should be rejected at slaughterhouses for all cattle so that they cannot be used for human consumption in any way. These offals, which include brain, spinal cord, thymus, spleen and tonsils, will have to be stained in the slaughterhouse and disposed of under conditions similar to those applying to unfit meat. This approach also deals with a separate problem, namely, ensuring that if there is any risk that there are cattle incubating the disease but not showing clinical symptoms which are not being slaughtered and destroyed, their offals do not enter the food chain either.
Detailed proposals for regulations under the Food Act implementing this change will be issued for consultation, as required by the Act, very shortly.