Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is the regulatory body responsible for conducting Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) food safety assessments of countries that seek to export beef or beef products to Australia. FSANZ analyses the information provided by applicant countries and assigns them a BSE risk status. The requirements detailed in the Australian Questionnaire to Assess BSE Risk1 are based on those of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code (2009).2 Croatia made a submission in 2010 to be assessed under the current BSE policy.
Croatia was previously assessed by the Australian BSE Country Categorisation Committee for Human Food Products (ABCCC) in 2003 for the purpose of country categorisation. The review was based on:
Eurostat export statistics on exports of live cattle and of MBM and greaves from European Union (EU) member states during the period 1980 to 2000.
At the time of the ABCCC review, the ban on rendering Specified Risk Material (SRM) had been in place for five years, but only two years had elapsed since the introduction of the total ban on feeding meat and bone meal (MBM) to farm animals, the exclusion of fallen stock from rendering, and efficient BSE surveillance. It was concluded that at the time of the review, the risk of recycling and amplification of infectious material was very stable, but that it had been unstable in the recent past. Croatia was assigned to Category C, as a country assessed as having had considerable exposure to BSE risk materials, but having not reported any cases of BSE.
FSANZ has conducted an assessment of Croatian legislative measures concerning control and prevention of BSE, and an in-country assessment of the application and enforcement of these legislative measures. Croatia currently has robust controls to prevent the amplification of the BSE agent within the Croatian cattle population and contamination of the human food supply with the BSE agent. Control procedures were observed to be operating efficiently during the in-country assessment.
Importation of MBM or greaves is prohibited in Croatia, and effective border controls are in place. Repeated revisions of legislation has ensured that controls to prevent the importation of cattle incubating BSE, and food products of bovine origin that might contain the BSE agent, have been as rigorous as, or more rigorous than, OIE recommendations for more than a decade. The exception has been the importation of bone-in meat, which is not recommended by OIE, but because only bone-in meat inspected and certified as suitable for human consumption in an EU country has been permitted, this is not considered to be a significant source of risk. Croatia has been diligent in monitoring the BSE status of other countries and has kept up to date with evolving knowledge of BSE transmission.
Procedures are in place to protect against cross-contamination of feed between ruminant and non-ruminant species. Sampling is in place to ensure that fishmeal used in animal feed production does not contain mammalian proteins, although sampling has been mandatory only since 2006.
Food safety controls are established in Croatia to ensure effective protection of the human food supply from potential BSE contamination. Croatian regulations related to management of SRM such as central nervous tissue at slaughter are fully aligned with European Commission (EC) regulations and OIE recommendations. All beef and beef products are fully traceable back to the animal or animals from which it came, and all bovines in Croatia must be identified and registered. All food business operators are required to have a procedure for the recall of products as part of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements, and Croatia has a rapid alert system and procedures to deal with food safety emergencies.
BSE has been a notifiable disease in Croatia since 1996 and effective BSE education and awareness programs are in place. Farmers, veterinarians, and slaughterhouse personnel are educated to recognise the clinical signs associated with the disease through ongoing awareness and education exercises for BSE. There are incentives to facilitate reporting, and penalties for failure to report suspect clinical cases.
Diagnostic capability is good, and diagnostic tests compliant with Chapter 2.4.6 of the OIE Manual of Standards for Diagnostic Tests and Vaccines for Terrestrial Animals have been validated and are subject to appropriate, ongoing quality control, including collaborative inter-laboratory testing with national reference laboratories of other countries.
Croatia has a sophisticated, centralised animal identification system and database, which is fully aligned with EU regulations.
Croatia carries out Type A surveillance that complies with the guidelines in Articles 11.5.20 to 11.5.22 of the OIE’s Terrestrial Animal Health Code. Surveillance point data currently meet the points target for the last seven years, although attainment of the target is a recent event. In-country assessment by FSANZ personnel confirmed that Croatian legislation relevant to BSE prevention and control is effectively enforced.
In conclusion, the risk of BSE entering and recycling within the bovine feed system or entering the human food supply in Croatia is currently well controlled. On the basis of the FSANZ BSE food safety assessment of Croatia, Category 2 status for the Republic of Croatia is recommended.