Lost amongst the Europe-wide furore concerning the discovery of horsemeat in processed foods, on February 14 the European Union quietly announced a partial lifting of the ban on animal proteins in feedstuffs.
Initially there will be no wholesale lifting of a ban which has been in place since the outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in 1997. Since 1997, the use of animal proteins in animal feed for ruminants such as cows has been banned in the European Union. In 2001, the ban was extended to cover all animals raised for human consumption. During the 1990s, it's believed the use of animal proteins in feedstuffs was to blame for over 200 deaths linked to Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, the human form of BSE.
From June 1 this year, it will be permissible for fish farmers to feed fish stocks with meal derived from pork and poultry, one of the cross-species types of animal feeds banned after the 1997 outbreak of mad cow disease over fears of contamination by BSE.
According to the European Commission, the relaxation of animal feed regulations is consistent with the latest scientific evidence which, the Commission says, points to a negligible risk of BSE transmission between non-ruminant animals, provided that intra-species recycling (cannibalism) is prevented, reports Europolitics.
The relaxation will initially apply to European fish farmers. For the first time since 2001, fish farmers would be permitted to use processed animal proteins (PAPs) in fish feed. French language website 20 minutes reports a European Commission spokesman as saying, "These PAT (processed animal proteins) could be a valuable substitute for fishmeal, which is a scarce resource.” The statement went on to say that the European Commission “intends proposing another measure to reintroduce the use of PAP pork and poultry to poultry and pig(s farming)” by 2014.
For the moment, use of PAPs for ruminants remains banned.
The European Commission’s relaxation was welcomed by Patrick Vanden Avenne, President of the European Compound Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC). In a statement released on the FEFAC website he said,
“EFSA has provided clear scientific evidence that non-ruminant PAPs produced in accordance with the high EU processing standards are safe. They can help in reducing the EU dependency on fishmeal imports thus contributing to the Common Fisheries Policy reform goals of pairing sustainable wild fisheries with the sustainable development of aquaculture”.Not logical to feed fish with meat
The change in European animal feed regulations was condemned, however, by French Minister of Ecology Delphine Batho. Interviewed today on French radio station RCJ she said, "I had not seen this decision which was made in January but which was released last week by the European Commission and I think it’s the greatest evil.” She added, “It’s true these are not the same animal feeds as in the past. These are animal feeds made with ingredients fit for consumption but it is not logical in the food chain to feed fish with meat.”
The Minister of Ecology went on to refer to the relaxation having "the same financial logic of absurdity" as that for horsemeat. She suggested that France may introduce its own food labelling regulations to make it clear to French consumers whether or not the fish they were buying had been fed with proteins derived from other animals.
When the vote was originally taken at EU ministerial level last July, France, through their Minister of Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll, had voted against the move to relax the regulations at European Union level and had the support of Germany. According to Europolitics, the United Kingdom abstained from the vote.