Animal By-Products: Health 

The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament recently approved a new Regulation on animal by-products (ABPs), which is currently awaiting publication in the EU’s Official Journal. This proposal reviews and updates health rules concerning ABPs not intended for human consumption. It aims to clarify and improve previous legislation on ABPs and make legislation more effective and efficient.

Background

ABPs are products, such as hides for leather, that are produced from animals, but that are not consumed by humans. ABPs may also be used – with certain restrictions - as feed for other animals. ABPs can pose a threat to the health of humans or animals if they are not regulated properly.

Regulation (EC) No 1774/2002 consolidated and recast the various existing rules covering ABPs. The Regulation laid down strict conditions throughout the food, feed production and distribution chain and classified animal by-products into three categories based on their potential risk. It also set out how each category must be disposed of.

In a report issued in 2005 reflecting the application of the Regulation by Member States, the Commission concluded that, while compliance had been generally satisfactorily, Member States and economic operators had encountered severe challenges to ensure compliance to its provisions.

Moreover, some requirements were disproportionate as regards very low risk products (e.g. processed ingredients used in cosmetics). On the other hand, there was a need to include new products under the different risk categories. Furthermore, areas of legal uncertainty or possible duplication with other legislation were identified.

This Regulation was therefore drawn up with the intention of simplifying and strengthening the existing rules on ABPs.

Aim of Regulation

This Regulation maintains the basic safeguards that were introduced in 2003 by Regulation (EC) No 1774/2002 against risks to humans or animal health. These are:

• A risk-based categorisation of animal by-products, which determines whether they may be used for feeding, for technical or other purposes, or have to be destroyed;

• The obligation for Member States and operators to ensure that animal by-products are collected and disposed of without undue delay;

• The exclusion of products which are unfit for human consumption from the feed chain for farmed animals;

• The prohibition on feeding material from one animal species to the same species ("intra-species recycling ban").

This Regulation’s main purpose is to:

• Remove overlap between different pieces of legislation;

• Clarifying differing responsibilities;

• Clarifying differing responsibilities;

• Introduce the concept of an ‘end point’ in the manufacturing of ABPs;

• Introduce changes to the way the rules for ABPs can be modified.

Removing Overlap and Clarifying the Rules

The 2005 report into Regulation (EC) No 1774/2002 expressed concern that there was overlap in existing legislation, leading to unnecessary burdens. Under this Regulation, potential risks will be controlled by compliance with the appropriate legislation, which is intended to remove unnecessary burdens on operators. This will enable public authorities to carry out controls in a more targeted way, and thus contribute to the improved enforcement of EU legislation.

On the basis of experience with the current rules, the Regulation also clarifies when and how environmental legislation applies to operations involving animal by-products. For example, if the application of manure to land as fertiliser affects soil and groundwater, environmental legislation would apply.

To avoid legal uncertainty concerning the scope of the rules on ABP from wild game, parallel provisions to the legislation on food hygiene will be introduced.

Operators handling high-level risk ABPs will also be given special authorization by the competent authorities. Such approvals are not considered necessary for plants and establishments which process or handle safe materials.

Responsibility for Enforcement

Operators and competent authorities will remain responsible for ensuring that ABPs are only being sent to outlets authorised by the law. Duplication between requirements will be avoided insofar as the objectives protected by one legislative framework can be considered to be covered sufficiently by another.

Member States are expected to provide the necessary infrastructure for a collection and disposal system to ensure the safe disposal of animal by-products. Operators will also have an increased responsibility for placing safe products on the market of safe products.

‘End Point’

The proposal introduces the concept of an "end point" in the manufacturing of animal by-products after which the processed products are no longer subject to the ABP rules, as potential risks are considered to have been eliminated. Instead, the general rules on product safety apply. For example, when animal fats from a rendering plant are further processed and the transformed product is used to produce plastics, the probability that any significant biological or viral risk remains in the final product is remote.

Modifying the Regulation

This Regulation introduces the possibility for the categorisation of animal by-products to be modified by the Commission by comitology. Before a change can be introduced, an assessment of the risks to public and animal health which may arise from a particular animal by-product will have to be carried out by a scientific institution such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) or the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP).