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Summaries of EU Legislation

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Fighting foot-and-mouth disease

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Fighting foot-and-mouth disease


Council Directive 2003/85/EC on EU measures for the control of foot-and-mouth disease



  • It sets out the minimum controls that should be applied if there is an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
  • It includes preventative measures to raise awareness and preparedness among the relevant authorities and the farming community. EU countries may take more stringent action if they wish.


  • Foot-and-mouth is a notifiable disease. Owners or handlers of animals and vets must report any outbreak.
  • When a suspected case is notified, the competent authorities must ensure:
    • the farm is placed under surveillance;
    • a census is made of all the animals and animal products present;
    • no animals or persons may enter or leave the premises;
    • entrances and exits of buildings are disinfected;
    • a temporary control zone may be established, banning movement of animals over a wider area;
    • a preventative eradication programme, involving the culling of animals, may be introduced.
  • When an outbreak is confirmed, the competent authorities must ensure:
    • all infected animals are killed on the spot;
    • the carcasses are buried or burned;
    • all buildings and vehicles used for the animals are disinfected and, if necessary, human areas and offices are as well;
    • all products which may have left a farm before control measures are introduced are traced and treated;
    • measures are taken to protect from the disease animals in laboratories, zoos and wildlife parks in the vicinity;
    • all animals in slaughterhouses, border inspection posts or any form of transport where a case is confirmed are immediately killed;
    • protection and surveillance zones are established: the first has a minimum 3-km radius, the second a minimum 10 km;
    • special measures apply in these zones: the sale of products originating from animals within the parameters is banned, for instance.
  • Restrictions applied in protection zones can be lifted 15 days after the last infected animal has been killed and disposed of. The time limit for surveillance zones is 30 days.
  • Special rules apply to the use, manufacture and sale of foot-and-mouth vaccines.
  • National authorities strictly control laboratories that handle the live FMD virus. They designate one national/central control centre.
  • National authorities draw up contingency plans to be implemented if an outbreak occurs. They may also carry out real-time alert exercises.


Regulation (EU) 2016/429 repeals Council Directive 2003/85/EC as from 21 April 2021.


FMD is highly contagious. It occurs in domestic and wild cloven-hoofed animals, such as cows, but may also affect certain other species (e.g. buffalo and bison).

The most recent epidemic — in the UK in 2001 — hit over 2,000 farms. It caused considerable hardship to rural communities as well as widespread concern among the public about the safety of beef.


It entered into force on 22 November 2003. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 30 June 2004.


Foot-and-mouth disease on the European Commission’s website.


Council Directive 2003/85/EC of 29 September 2003 on Community measures for the control of foot-and-mouth disease repealing Directive 85/511/EEC and Decisions 89/531/EEC and 91/665/EEC and amending Directive 92/46/EEC (OJ L 306, 22.11.2003, pp. 1-87)

The successive amendments to Directive 2003/85/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


Commission Decision 2007/18/EC of 22 December 2006 approving contingency plans for the control of foot-and-mouth disease pursuant to Council Directive 2003/85/EC (OJ L 7, 12.1.2007, pp. 36-37)

Council Decision 91/666/EEC of 11 December 1991 establishing Community reserves of foot-and-mouth disease vaccines (OJ L 368, 31.12.1991, pp. 21-25) See consolidated version.

Commission Decision 2001/75/EC of 18 January 2001 for safety and potency testing of foot-and-mouth disease vaccines and bluetongue vaccines (OJ L 26, 27.1.2001, pp. 38-39)

Commission Decision 2009/486/EC of 22 June 2009 on the purchase of foot-and-mouth disease virus antigens (OJ L 160, 23.6.2009, pp. 27-28)

Regulation (EU) 2016/429 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 March 2016 on transmissible animal diseases and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health (‘Animal Health Law’) (OJ L 84, 31.3.2016, pp. 1–208)

last update 24.05.2016