The EU will strengthen measures taken by the Romanian authorities to prevent the spread of equine infectious anaemia (EIA) to other Member States. The decision is based on a Commission proposal that was endorsed by the Member States during a two-day meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH), which also agreed on a series of other measures aiming to protect animal and public health in the EU.
Equine infectious anaemia (EIA) is a viral disease affecting equidae - i.e. mammals such as horses, donkeys and mules. The disease is endemic to Romania and certain rules are already in place to prevent its spread via animal movements.
Recent cases of EIA in horses moved from Romania to other Member States and a published report of a veterinary inspection mission indicated that efforts by Romanian authorities to control the disease would benefit from further EU measures. Equidae from Romania will now be transported to other Member States only from holdings that are certified free of EIA and under a comprehensive and specific regime, which includes double testing before dispatch.
The new EU rules reinforce traceability and post-arrival control measures in the Member States of destination. They also allow for a possible future "regionalisation" of measures within Romania, in those areas where it is demonstrated that the disease has been successfully eradicated.
During the SCoFCAH meeting, Member States also gave a positive opinion on the simplification of the identification process of sheep and goats kept in zoos. The current rules on traceability of animals cater for the tagging of sheep and goats with electronic and visible identifiers also in zoos. The new rules allow for derogations and they take into account that these animals belong mostly to wild species that should be presented in their authentic aspect.
Finally, the Commission also announced plans to create an EU Reference Laboratory in the area of bee health. Parallel to this, the first ever bee health training course for officials of Member States under the Better Training for Safer Food initiative is also starting next week.
In recent years, reports indicated an increased mortality in bees in the EU and elsewhere. Although this has caused serious concern all over the world, scientific studies have not yet been able to determine the exact cause or the extent of this phenomenon. In December 2009, a study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommended that surveillance for bee health needs to be better coordinated and harmonised at EU level. An EU reference laboratory is expected to provide scientific and technical support and will guide future EU action to better protect bees. The new EU lab is expected to become operational in early 2011.