O’Neill launches BSE public consultation

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Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill has launched a public consultation seeking the views of those involved in the agri-food industry and the general public on possible changes to Northern Ireland’s BSE status.

The Minister said: “There is considerable support for the view that if we could secure BSE Negligible Risk status, it could help improve our global image as a disease-free area and perhaps even help open new markets for our exports.”

Currently Northern Ireland has Controlled Risk status, as does Britain and the south.

The Minister went on to say: “Although I am keen to support any initiative which might have the potential to drive export growth, I also wish to ensure that all implications are considered including the views of other stakeholders, such as retailers and consumers.”

The public consultation will run from 21 March until 13 June 2016 and the consultation document and response form can be accessed from DARD’s website.

The Minister concluded: “We have involved the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and the Food Standards Agency in this initiative from an early stage in order to get the best possible advice about any possible implications. People can be assured that public safety will be our number one consideration at all times.”

BSE is one of a group of diseases of the brain which can be fatal.