Scientific opinion on the BSE risk

by Editor
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Following a request from the European Commission (EC), the Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the revision of the Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) of the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) risk posed by Processed Animal Proteins (PAPs).

The feed ban is the key animal health protection measure against Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs) and consists of a ban on the use of animal proteins in feed for farmed animals. Scientific data link the spread of BSE to the consumption of feed contaminated by the infected ruminant proteins. Based on these findings a ban on the feeding of mammalian PAPs to cattle, sheep and goats was introduced in July 1994. The ban was expanded in January 2001 with the feeding of all PAPs to all farmed animals being prohibited, with certain limited exceptions. Any presence of prohibited constituents of animal origin in feed is considered as a breach of the feed ban i.e. the zero-tolerance.

The overall decrease in the numbers of BSE cases across the European Union (EU) (about 2,167 BSE cases in 2001 in the EU 15, compared to 125 cases in the 2008 and only 45 up to the end of November 2009 in the EU 27) clearly demonstrates a continuous positive trend in the eradication of the disease. Therefore the EC asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): i) to review and update the scientific input data of the current EFSA QRA model if needed, to review the methodology and update the current QRA model; and to review the cattle BSE risk posed by bovine derived PAPs with respect to the residual BSE risk, based on the outcome of the QRA.

It was concluded that the current global limit of detection for PAPs in feed is still considered to be 0.1%. The structure of the EFSA QRA model was considered to be still suitable for the purpose of the mandate received and an updated version of that model (called EFSA QRA PAP model) was developed to answer the specific terms of reference of the mandate.

It was recommended to continue the development of analytical methods to improve the limit of detection of animal proteins in feed and to take into account the risk of (re-)emergence of TSE in cattle in case the use of some mammalian PAPs for feeding animals should be reintroduced. Moreover, in case of modification of the mitigation measures against BSE the assessment should be updated.