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TSE Freedom Assurance Project

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE)

Animal Health Australia (AHA) manages the TSE Freedom Assurance Project, which delivers nationally integrated TSE risk minimisation measures to keep Australian animals and their products free from TSEs.

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) in animals are a class of rare brain diseases that are associated with the accumulation of abnormal prion protein in the brain and therefore affect the central nervous system. A number of TSEs affect people and animals, and two types of TSE are of interest to Australia’s livestock industries.

TSE Freedom Assurance Project

Prior to establishment of the TSE Freedom Assurance Program (TSEFAP) in 2004, many animal TSE risk minimisation measures in Australia were managed and funded in different ways.

AHA’s TSEFAP integrates all TSE measures into one national program with clear and nationally integrated operational components and a transparent funding framework.

Purpose and objectives of the TSEFAP

The purpose of the TSEFAP is to enhance market confidence that Australian animals and animal products are free from TSEs through the structured and nationally integrated management of animal-related TSE activities.

We are achieving this by meeting the following objectives:

  • Maintain Australia’s freedom from BSE and scrapie, and the highest level international rating.
  • Complete sufficient surveillance to meet international requirements and assure trading partners, markets and consumers that Australian animals and animal products are free of TSEs and to ensure the early detection of a TSE should it occur.
  • Demonstrate that no restricted animal material is fed to ruminants.
  • Manage the risks posed by animals imported from countries that have had cases of TSE.
  • Provide a forum to involve all stakeholders in addressing animal-related TSE issues.

Our activities are categorised into four operational project areas and two support project areas.

Each activity in the project is addressed as a separate sub-project, with clearly defined resource requirements. An additional activity can be included in the TSEFAP after stakeholders agree how to adequately resource it.

AHA manages the program and relevant stakeholders are invited to participate via the National Advisory Committee.

Which stakeholders are involved

Major stakeholders who are involved in developing and/or operating the project and its business plan are listed below.

  • Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
  • NSW Government Department of Primary Industries
  • Queensland Government Department of Agriculture and Fisheries
  • Government of Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food
  • Northern Territory Government Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries
  • South Australia Government Primary Industries and Regions
  • Victoria Government Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
  • Tasmania Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment
  • ACT Government Territory and Municipal Services
  • Cattle Council of Australia
  • Australian Lot Feeders’ Association
  • Sheepmeat Council of Australia
  • WoolProducers Australia
  • Australian Dairy Farmers
  • Australian Meat Industry Council
  • Australian Renderers Association
  • Stock Feed Manufacturers’ Council of Australia
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand
  • Goat Industry Council of Australia

How the project operates

AHA has appointed a dedicated program manager and streamlined the operation of the TSEFAP by forming two committees.

National Advisory Committee

Funding stakeholders are represented on a National Advisory Committee (NAC) whose terms of reference include:

  • consideration of the issues relating to the program
  • consideration of the inclusion of emerging TSE issues within the TSEFAP
  • referral of issues to appropriate working groups
  • negotiation of program arrangements.

National Technical Committee

Membership of the National Technical Committee is dynamic, depending on the particular issue being examined, and members provide appropriate technical input to progress specific activities or address technical issues. The terms of reference for this committee include:

  • making recommendations based on scientific knowledge
  • reviewing preparedness for an incursion of TSEs should it occur
  • identifying technical issues that may require further consideration through ad hoc working groups
  • overseeing the implementation and operations of relevant activities.

For efficiency, it is anticipated that each jurisdiction will nominate a single representative to participate in this committee.

National Technical Committee members need a username and password to log into the TSEFAP Committee Extranet.

How Australia has remained TSE free

To maintain Australia’s BSE and scrapie free status, Australia has adopted many measures over the past half century.

Table 1: Timeline of TSE measures in Australia

Year Actions
1952 Eradicated Australia’s only scrapie outbreak in sheep imported from the UK. Banned importation of sheep and goats from all countries except New Zealand.
1966 Prohibited the importation of meat and bone meal and any stock feed containing material of ruminant origin from all countries except New Zealand.
1988 Banned importation of livestock from the UK. Introduced a policy that banned the importation of cattle from countries once they became BSE affected, and placed any cattle imported before such bans into lifetime quarantine.
1990 Began regular surveillance and testing for BSE in Australian cattle.
1991 Extended restrictions on UK and Ireland imports to include France and Switzerland.
1992 Responded effectively to an imported Cheetah quarantined in an Australian zoo diagnosed with FSE.
1995 Australian feedlot industry introduced a voluntary quality assurance program based on third party audit and accreditation.
1996 Completed comprehensive review of existing quarantine measures. Implemented voluntary ban on feeding of ruminant material to ruminants following World Health Organization recommendation.
1997 Introduced compulsory feeding ban legislation in all Australian states and territories.
1998 Adopted World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines for surveillance of BSE and scrapie.
1999 Extended ruminant feeding ban to include feeding of specified mammalian material to ruminants. Commenced annual national audit of the ruminant feed ban.
2001–02 Extended feeding ban to include all vertebrate materials to ruminants (not including milk, tallow or gelatin). Responded effectively to an imported Asiatic golden cat quarantined in an Australian zoo diagnosed with FSE.
2003 Australian stock feed manufacturers introduced a voluntary quality assurance program based on third party audit and accreditation.
2004 AHA and major stakeholders established the TSE Freedom Assurance Program.
2006 OIE recognised Australia as being free of BSE.
2007 OIE recognised Australia as a negligible risk for BSE under updated categorisation criteria.
2008 Completed first TSEFAP business plan. Commenced the 2008–13 TSEFAP business plan.
2013 Completed 5 year independent review of TSEFAP. Commenced 2013–18 TSEFAP business plan.

 Related links

External links

Useful documents

TSE Freedom Assurance Program 2014-15 Annual Report (PDF 0.8MB)


Page reviewed: July 14, 2016