Intestines from cattle are currently considered Specified Risk Material (SRM) which means they must be kept out of the feed and food chain.
But the SRM list is based on evolving scientific knowledge and so bovine intestines may be removed from the list on the basis of new research.
An assessment report prepared for the Swiss Cervelas Task Force recently concluded that individual human BSE exposure risk from bovine casings was “very low”.
It was in the light of this report that the European Commission asked the panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) at EFSA to deliver a scientific opinion on bovine castings, in order to determine whether their current classification should be changed.
The BIOHAZ panel decided that the existing scientific opinion from EFSA remains valid and that the Swiss research was flawed. It considered the approach (concept and methodology) taken in the report to be scientifically sound, but disagreed with the interpretation of the results.
EFSA said its assumptions were based on limited scientific data, some of which had already been found to be inadequate in a previous EFSA opinion. Furthermore, the panel said there is uncertainty about the relative BSE risk of neural and lymphoid tissues in casings that might have significant impact on the calculated results.
Then looking at human exposure to BSE per year in the EU from bovine casings, based on its prevalence in 2007, the panel concluded that the numbers cannot be considered negligible.
The final panel recommendation was that the conclusions of the Swiss report are not valid and that the existing EFSA opinion remains correct. Looking forward, the panel reiterated that future considerations on the risk in bovine casings should take into account the BSE prevalence in cattle at the time.