18 May 2001
France accuses Britain over BSE

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

BRITAIN has been accused of “cynicism” and “indifference” for continuing to export meat and bonemeal to third countries after a late 1980s domestic ban.

A report, published by the French Senate in Paris on Thursday (17 May), says this was one of the main reasons for the spread of BSE to France.

But it also blames the French government for reacting too slowly, feed compounders for taking part in the trade and the EU commission for its inertia.

“After it was banned in Great Britain in 1988, the exportation of meat and bonemeal was encouraged and France was the main destination,” says the report.

The British government failed to inform importing countries of the risks, it claims, and feed compounders were happy to take the stuff given its low price.

The 360-page Senate report also accuses the French ministry of agriculture of ignoring scientific advice.

It rejected the idea that BSE could jump the species barrier as late as 1994.

It suggests the government succumbed to pressure from the feed industry to keep meat and bonemeal, putting economics before public health.

And it points to the lack of co-ordination between different departments, although this has been strongly denied.

A joint statement from the ministries of health and agriculture insists that they have always worked closely together, with consumer safety a top priority.

They accuse the predominantly right-wing Senate of “politicking”, seeking to rubbish Lionel Jospins socialist government.

The report will now be considered by the French government, together with a number of recommendations.

These include the creation of a “positive list” of acceptable ingredients for animal feed and possible changes to Frances whole herd slaughter BSE policy.

Increased support for the beef market, is also recommended.

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