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BSE: Over Thirty Month (OTM) cattle - Review of the OTM rule

[back to OTM cattle]


Welcome to Defra’s web page explaining the replacement of the Over Thirty Month (OTM) rule with a system of BSE testing for OTM cattle.

OTM rule change

On 15 September the Government announced that it had accepted advice from the FSA Board that a reliable BSE testing system had now been developed to test OTM cattle. On 7 November a system of BSE testing for OTM cattle was introduced. Older UK cattle born before 1 August 1996 continue to be excluded from the food chain.

Oversight of the testing regime

The FSA oversees the implementation of replacement of the OTM rule by BSE testing through an Implementation Review Group. The Group includes representatives from consumers and the meat industry. The FSA will take on a new role of audit of the entire system for BSE testing in cattle slaughtered for human consumption, and will report to the FSA Board and Ministers on the effectiveness of implementation of the system six months after the change is made.

The Older Cattle Disposal Scheme (OCDS)

To ensure the satisfactory disposal of OTM cattle born before 1 August 1996, the OCDS was introduced on 23 January 2006 replacing the Over Thirty Months Scheme (OTMS).

Consultation on proposals to amend the legislation on BSE testing to facilitate trade in cattle over thirty months for human consumption

On 8 March 2005 Defra launched a 12 week consultation on proposed changes to TSE legislation laying down the criteria for abattoirs wishing to slaughter OTM cattle for human consumption, following any rule change. This consultation finished on 31 May 2005. This legislation came into force on 19 October 2005, although abattoirs were not able to slaughter OTM cattle for human consumption until 7 November 2005.


The EU ban on the export of cattle and bovine products from the UK was lifted on 2 May 2006. Further information on beef and cattle exports is available.

Current experience of testing for BSE

The UK currently tests about 500,000 cattle and around 15,000 sheep each year. Since 2001, when the programme of testing began, many practical problems relating to testing within laboratories and at abattoirs have been identified and addressed.

Work of the Independent Advisory Group (IAG)

This Group was set up in November 2004 to identify the requirements for a robust BSE testing regime; to oversee trials of the proposed testing system; and, to report on whether it met the requirements specified by the Group.

Trials of the testing system in GB

Part of the work of the IAG was to assess the reliability of the BSE testing system. A number of abattoir trials across GB and Northern Ireland were held to demonstrate the BSE testing system. See the link to ‘What’s new’ on the homepage for reports on the last trials which were held in June 2005. There were also a number of earlier abattoir trials.

Stakeholder Engagement

Work on the practical issues of sampling in abattoirs and testing OTM animals, was carried out as part of contingency planning for the outcome of the FSA’s review of the OTM rule. A Defra-led Project Board (which includes representatives of the FSA, MHS and Devolved Administrations) has been meeting regularly every month to discuss arrangements that needed to be in place following the replacment of the OTM rule . This has been aided by regular meetings with industry experts and regular Stakeholder meetings with industry, farming and consumer organisations (held about every 6 weeks, depending upon developments).

Further work was carried out in preparation for the rule change. In particular, following the work of the IAG, and the trials undertaken in a number of abattoirs across the UK, an approval system was developed for those plants wishing to slaughter OTM cattle for human consumption. Details of this approval system can be found in the Guidance for OTM abattoir approval.

Page last reviewed: 19 September, 2006
Page last modified: 19 December, 2006

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs