27 October 1999
Doubts cast over legal action with France

THE Prime Ministers faith in legal action against France over its ban on British beef may be misplaced, the European Commission warned today.

The London Evening Standard reports this as the Scientific Steering Committee of independent EC scientists meets to consider French evidence that British beef is unsafe because of BSE.

Specialists who met on Monday to advise the committee were divided with a “large minority” backing the French position.

The EC has said if that lack of consensus is mirrored in the SSCs conclusions, it may not be able to carry out its threat of legal action against France in the European Court of Justice.

Failure to get the ban lifted would put Tony Blair under further pressure to retaliate with a ban on imports of French meat illegally reared on animal and human waste.

Some supermarkets are already boycotting French products, and there are growing calls in the media for a ban.

Yesterday French farmers blocked two ports in retaliation, while British farmers have been trying to turn back French lorries from British ports.

In another development, it was revealed the EU has known for months that French farmers were using animal feed mixed with sewage, animal meat, bonemeal and antibiotics.

Europes Food Safety Commissioner, David Byrne, admitted to Euro MPs he had known about the scandal since 12 August.