STC Number - 97

Restrictions on the use of fishmeal

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: Chile; Norway; Peru
Supported by: Ecuador; Iceland; United States of America
First date raised: July 2001 G/SPS/R/22, paras. 17-21
Dates subsequently raised: October 2001 (G/SPS/R/25, paras. 12-17)
March 2002 (G/SPS/R/26, 31-32)
June 2004 (G/SPS/R/34, paras. 134-136)
March 2005 (G/SPS/R/36/Rev.1, paras. 74-77)
Number of times subsequently raised: 4
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GEN/256, G/SPS/GEN/264
Products covered: 0511 Animal products not elsewhere specified or included; dead animals of Chapter 1 or 3, unfit for human consumption.
Primary subject keyword: Animal Health
Keywords: Animal health; Food safety; Human health; International Standards / Harmonization; Zoonoses
Status: Partially resolved
Solution: Partial resolution applies only to Chile.
Date reported as resolved: 16/10/2013

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In July 2001, Peru expressed concern about the EC prohibition on the use of fishmeal in the elaboration of ruminant feed, which had no scientific basis, was not based on a risk assessment, and was more trade-restrictive than required. The competent authorities in Peru had shown that fishmeal and fish oil were safe to human and animal health, and had high nutritional value. Since the prohibition had a very serious impact on the Peruvian economy, Peru asked the European Communities to lift this restriction as soon as possible. Chile underlined that fishmeal was not at all related to BSE. At bilateral meetings, the European Communities had explained that the restriction was related to cross-contamination of fishmeal and other animal meals within the European Communities. Chile requested the European Communities to exclude fishmeal from the prohibition, and to be more flexible with standards applied to processing plants in the meantime. The European Communities had classified Chile as having minimal BSE risk, and Chile had offered to provide quality and traceability certificates. Chile was surprised that there were no restrictions on vegetable meals, which could also be mixed with meat and bone meal (MBM) in feed. In addition, MBM continued to be used as pet food in the European Communities. The United States urged Members to reacquaint themselves with the relevant OIE guidelines and recommendations (G/SPS/GEN/230).

The OIE representative drew attention to the WHO/FAO/OIE conference held in June 2001 on BSE, public health, animal health and trade (G/SPS/GEN/260). The experts at this meeting had concluded that the basis of the EC ban on feeding rendered animal protein to farm animals was to avoid risk of cross-contamination of the animal feed system. Discussions had highlighted the lack of technical means to verify the absence of banned products in meals at very low levels. The European Communities confirmed that the ban on the use of fishmeal in ruminant feed was a safeguard measure reflecting failures in the implementation of rules on animal feed. Imports of fishmeal had not been prohibited, but its use was subject to strict conditions. The European Communities wished to minimize trade effects and was ready to evaluate with Chile, Peru and other countries the consequences, if any, on their exports.

In October 2001, Peru indicated that the European Communities recognized that there was no scientific evidence demonstrating that BSE could be transmitted through fishmeal, but maintained its restrictions to address an internal problem of cross-contamination and fraudulent practices. Peru requested that the European Communities lift the restrictions as soon as possible. Chile noted that applying the same restrictions on fishmeal as for MBM had no scientific basis and was not consistent with OIE or WHO recommendations. Chile was concerned over the length of time that the provisional measure had been in place and the suggestion that a new diagnostic test of the presence of animal proteins in feed would need to be developed before the measure could be rescinded. Chile would explore all options available under the SPS Agreement to have the restrictions lifted. The United States underlined the need for BSE control measures to reflect the different risk status of particular products and countries. Iceland objected strongly to the EC measures which were tantamount to an import ban on fishmeal for animal feed.

The European Communities clarified that the legislation was a provisional measure that covered the internal use of fishmeal. As all producers were requested to fulfil the same conditions, the measure was not discriminatory. A derogation allowed the use of fishmeal in feeds for non-ruminant animals provided certain strict production and handling conditions were met. The development of a reliable, but less laborious detection test would be a decisive element when reviewing the feed ban, and efforts were underway in the Communities in this regard. The representative of the European Communities questioned claims that the EC regulations had an adverse impact on trade.

In March 2002, Peru stated that there was a lack of political will on the part of the European Communities to reach a solution to this problem. Fishmeal posed no risk of BSE for human or animal health, but the EC measure created doubts among other countries, which resulted in a negative impact on fishmeal trade. Furthermore, as the EC measure had been extended indefinitely, it could no longer be justified as a provisional measure.

The European Communities noted that the measure was maintained due to demonstrated cases of cross-contamination detected through the EC's detection system. One tool which could help resolve this issue was a reliable test which could distinguish mammalian meals from fishmeal. Unfortunately, although under development, such a test would not be available in the near future. The European Communities requested Peru to provide evidence of trade disruption as a result of the EC measure, as no disruption was apparent in EU trade statistics.

In June 2004, Chile noted that the European Communities was reviewing the restrictive measures on fishmeal in cattle feed. Lifting the ban would require the development of a diagnostic test which would assure all EC member States that detection of contamination of fishmeal with bone- or meat-meal would be possible. Chile had received information that the diagnostic method had been standardized and the Food Chain and Animal Health Committee would vote on lifting the ban in September 2004. The European Communities were requested to provide further information concerning the possible date when the ban would be lifted. Peru also requested a written explanation from the European Communities.
The European Communities responded that results of the test were pending and that a written reply would be made available after the Food Chain and Animal Health Committee meeting in September 2004.

In March 2005, Norway reiterated concerns regarding the EC prohibition on the use of fishmeal in ruminant feed due to BSE concerns. The OIE had confirmed that there was no scientific evidence to support the view that fish or fishmeal could transmit or disseminate the disease. Iceland, Norway, Peru and Chile supported the statement made by Norway. The decision to ban the use of fishmeal in feed for ruminants was introduced because of fear of cross contamination and of fraud in the blending process. It was now possible to detect whether animal protein was present in feed containing fishmeal. Peru and Chile asked the European Communities to take into consideration the damage this measure caused to developing countries. Fish meal was one of Peru's main export products.

The European Communities noted that this measure had been introduced as a control measure to prevent fraud and cross contamination and had not had serious consequences on trade. The measure was modified to allow for continued use of fishmeal for poultry and pigs. The ban was only applied to feed for ruminants which was only about three per cent of the market. The test, which allowed discrimination between protein of mammalian origin and of fish origin, removed the main technical scientific barrier to the lifting of the measure. The Commission, however, was concerned about reopening the feed dossier, given consumer sensitivities in this area.