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Minister Smith welcomes EU Commissioner's agreement to significant increase in age limit for BSE testing

The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Mr Brendan Smith TD, today warmly welcomed the agreement of the EU Commissioner for Public Health, Androulla Vassiliou to a proposed increase in the minimum age for BSE testing of both animals slaughtered for human consumption as well as emergency slaughtered and fallen animals to 48 months.

A decision to increase the minimum age for testing to 48 months will deliver very significant savings to farmers who currently pay to have healthy slaughtered animals over 30 months tested for BSE.

Minister Smith said that the Commissioner's agreement to a significant increase in the age limit is a "complete vindication of the position I have advocated since my appointment, when I identified the increase in the age limit for BSE testing as a priority." The Minister said that one of the first things he had done on his appointment was to write to the EU Commissioner and he had taken every opportunity since to press the Commissioner to increase the age limit, particularly when he had met Commissioner Vassiliou at meetings of the EU Agriculture Council. The Minister also pressed the case when he met the Commissioner during her recent visit to Dublin.

Minister Smith said that both he and his predecessor had long held the view that "the current testing requirements were unjustified when one considers the significant progress made in reducing the incidence of the disease in Ireland, from a high of 333 cases in 2003 to 25 last year and 12 to date in 2008."

Minister Smith said that the next step was for the applications from Member States to have their surveillance programmes revised to be considered by an EU Working Group over the next week and said that he was confident, based on the reduction in the disease in Ireland and the extensive controls in place, that Ireland's application would be approved and said that he anticipated that the new testing regime would be in place from early 2009.

Date Released: 17 September 2008