§ Lord Lucas
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they are aware of the basis on which AFSSA (the French food safety agency) has banned pithing in slaughterhouses: and whether they will 206WA place in the Library of the House their evaluation of the French decision and their reasons for differing from AFSSA's conclusion. [HL2035]
§ Lord Hunt of Kings Heath
AFSSA's recommendation that the practice of pithing should be banned in French abattoirs was based on its assessment that pithing presents a risk of contamination of the carcass by both nervous tissue, which AFSSA considered a risk factor for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), and microbiological organisms. It is for the French Government to consider that recommendation and to take such action as they consider necessary.
On the BSE risk in the United Kingdom, the Government have accepted the advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) that there is no reason to change UK practices of stunning and pithing during slaughter of cattle. In giving that advice, SEAC took into account the measures in place in the UK to protect public health from BSE, notably the prohibition on the sale for human consumption of meat from animals aged over 30 months, as a result of which the number of infected animals at the late stage of the incubation period entering the food chain is now estimated to be very low. There is no rule equivalent to the over-30 month rule in France and it would be quite understandable if a risk assessment carried out in a country without such a rule resulted in different advice. The risk of the introduction of microbiological contamination by pithing rods is small as long as good hygienic practices are followed.