24 November 1999
France agrees to British beef safeguards

By FWi staff

EXPORTS of British beef could be resumed within weeks after Britain and France agreed to a document drawn up by the European Commission.

The “protocol of understanding”, clarifies the key measures being taken in the UK to safeguard against the spread of BSE.

Now the document must await the verdict of the French food safety agency.

It includes steps taken under the Date-Based Export Scheme, which led to the lifting of the EU ban in August, plus an assurance that France will be able to label British beef, as agreed last week.

The document summarises clarifications on traceability, controls, tests, and derived products.

It states that the commission will carry out, from next year, on-the-spot checks on UK farms, reports BBC Online.

A surveillance project will also be established to monitor the effectiveness of a British ban on meat and bonemeal in cattle-feed.

The document also calls for a working group to look into post mortem tests for BSE on cattle, which could identify the disease more quickly.

Agriculture Minister Nick Brown said the new measures would not place any extra burden on UK farmers, and welcomed the move as “real progress”.

He rejected claims by shadow agriculture minister Tim Yeo that he had made concessions and that labelled British beef would be stigmatised.

Mr Brown hoped the ban could be lifted by the beginning of December.

The document must now be submitted to the French food safety agency for consideration. It was the agencys decision that British beef was unsafe which led to the dispute.

Many commentators believe that under pressure from Britain, the French Government and the EC the agency is likely to give UK beef the all-clear.

The commission started legal proceedings against France last week. This would halt once a ban was lifted.

It has also given Germany, which has retained its own ban, two weeks to come up with indications of a timetable for implementing legislation to allow British meat to be sold.