EC proposes clearer and more risk-proportionate rules for animal by-products

The European Commission adopted today a proposal that will facilitate the efficient management of animal by-products, while preserving at the same time the current high levels of protection against risks to public and animal health and the environment. Thousands of slaughterhouses, farms and dairy plants across the EU produce more than 15 million tonnes of animal by-products every year.

The proposal for a revised Regulation on animal by-products introduces clearer rules and sets the general framework for more risk-proportionate requirements for these products. Farmers and the wide range of sectors producing and using animal by-products will benefit from a more coherent legal framework for the collection, use and disposal of animal by-products. The new rules will also clarify when and how environmental legislation applies, and make it easier to use materials of animal origin for technical applications.

European Commissioner for Health Androulla Vassiliou said: “This proposal updates our existing rules on animal by-products by removing unnecessary burdens and overlaps where possible, while clarifying when other related legislation applies. At the same time, key safeguards for animal and public health are maintained to protect the consumer."

Maintaining safeguards for animal and public health

A wide range of materials of animal origin are used outside the food chain for a broad range of purposes. Hides and skins are used for leather, milk powder for feeding and blood products for diagnostic tools. There is a risk that diseases which may affect humans or animals are transmitted through such animal by-products when they are used to feed animals or to produce technical products. The draft Regulation maintains the basic safeguards against such risks that have been introduced in 2003. In short, it preserves:

  1. 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.
  2. The obligation for Member States and operators to ensure that animal by-products are collected and disposed of without undue delay.
  3. The exclusion of products which are unfit for human consumption from the feed chain for farmed animals.
  4. The prohibition to feed material from a species of animals to the same species ("intra-species recycling ban").

Clearer legal framework

Animal by-products are increasingly used for the production of cosmetics, medicines and diagnostic tools. Animal by-products which are used to manufacture such products have to meet the requirements of other Community legislation. Currently, other legislation applies in addition to the health rules on animal by-products, even though the objectives of both legal frameworks may overlap. This is an issue to be addressed.

More risk-proportionate rules

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 have been eliminated. Instead, the general rules on product safety apply. Also there is the possibility for the current categorisation of animal by-products to be modified by the Commission by comitology is introduced.