EU rules governing intra-community trade in cattle and pigs, amended during last year's UK presidency, introduced revised criteria for achieving EBL-free status on a national or regional level.
The new criteria were applicable to the situation in Great Britain and a case was put to the commission in May. The commission accepted the application and issued a decision granting Great Britain the status earlier this month, coming into force on 1 July 1999. Under the same decision Northern Ireland retains it's EBL-free status.
Food safety minister Jeff Rooker said: 'As a result of this decision all cattle herds will be regarded as officially 'Leukosis-free' throughout Great Britain.
This means there may no longer be a need for the cattle health scheme which sought to provide a pool of herds in Great Britain attested as free from EBL. MAFF will be writing to members of the scheme and the cattle industry in England shortly to consult them on the scheme's future. In the meantime, it will continue to operate but no new memberships or annual renewal fees will be accepted. The national testing and control programme for EBL will also continue.
1. Enzootic Bovine Leukosis (EBL) is a disease of cattle caused by a retro-virus, the bovine leukaemia virus, which attacks the lymphatic system. Though transmissible amongst cattle, the disease is currently not thought to present a danger to human health and the primary rationale for control is the benefit to trade.
2. EBL was first detected in GB cattle in 1978 in cattle associated with imports. There is no evidence to suggest that the disease has ever been endemic in GB herds. A comprehensive monitoring and control programme has been in operation since 1992 and the infection has been found in less than 0.2% of herds in GB since 1994. The last
detected case in Great Britain was in December 1996.
3. The current monitoring and control programme consists of:
- all blood samples collected for routine Brucellosis testing every two years are also tested for the presence of EBL;
- bulk tank milk samples collected and tested from all dairy herds every four months. In the event of a positive milk test, all adult animals in the herd are blood tested.
- investigation of tumours identified pre and post mortem.
In addition to this bulls are tested before they enter semen collection centres and imported cattle are tested according to EU rules.
4. Council directives 64/432 and 77/391 lay down provisions for the control of EBL in the context of animal health problems and intra-Community trade. A recent amendment to directive 64/432, directive 98/46, enabled GB to submit a case which, by means of a risk asessment model, demonstrated to a confidence rating of 99% that
less than 0.2% of herds were infected with the EBL virus. The acceptance of this case and the granting of official EBL-Free status to GB will allow herds to qualify for intra-community trade once exports of live cattle recommence. A commission decision was required for GB to achieve officially EBL-free status.
5. The cattle health scheme was introduced in 1987 and incorporated the earlier 'attested herds scheme' set up in 1982. Currently there are around 5,500 producers voluntarily participating in the Scheme i.e. around 5% of herds. In addition to the requirements for testing of milk and blood samples, attested herds had to be
protected from infection from other animals and certain stock movement records had to be kept.
6. The SVS provided veterinary advice on the cattle health scheme and charged prescribed fees for participation in the scheme.