EC gelatine rules do not cut BSE risk

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The Independent Online
Tough safety standards set by Brussels last year to eradicate BSE from gelatin are inadequate, the European Commission's new food health watch- dog declared last night.

The Multidisciplinary Scientific Committee, at its first meeting since a reshuffle of Commission responsibilities for food health to restore consumer confidence in beef, said technical treatment conditions for gelatin imposed on Britain in the wake of the mad cow crisis are no guarantee of avoiding contamination.

Conditions governing the safe production of gelatin were set by the Commission in a decision last June and involved heating requirements which should have ensured the BSE agent was destroyed. The UK was told it must meet the conditions as a prerequisite of restoring its export trade for gelatin.

Last night's decision does not affect the gelatin trade because British authorities have not informed Brussels that the requirements have been met. However, the finding is bound to lead to tougher standards being imposed, possibly pushing back even further the date on which an easing of beef export trade restrictions can begin.

EU Commissioner Emma Bonino, who was given new responsibility for consumer health protection in the reshuffle, said last night that she would be urging her fellow commissioners to take account of the latest declaration of the committee in re-examining its BSE safety requirement.

The committee, meeting in Brussels to begin its new task of risk evaluation in food, also decided to review the BSE safety requirements.

The decision by the committee came as doctors in Britain warned that growth promoters used to produce plumper farm animals may pose a risk to humans by encouraging the spread of drug-resistant bacteria.

The warning came from researchers at City Hospital, Birmingham, following a case of a man admitted to hospital after breaking his leg in an accident at a factory where chickens were packed and suffering a wound which became infected and produced a fever.

Bacteria from the wound was found to be resistant to an antibiotic and a susbequent investigation discovered that the chickens at the factory had been colonised with the same antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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