19 November 2001
French defiant over lamb spine ban

By FWi staff

FRANCE has defended its plan to go beyond EU rules and force the removal of the spinal column from imported lamb aged over six months.

While France says that the measure is extra protection against BSE-type diseases, British farmers say they will receive lower prices from abattoirs.

They believe that French farmers are trying to retain the UK share of the French lamb market they gained during the foot-and-mouth export ban in the UK.

But Marie Agnes Vibert, agriculture attaché at the French embassy in London, insisted to The Times that this was not a protectionist move.

“Britain introduced its own rules on BSE before anyone else and now we are doing the same,” she argued.

“This is not an action to defend markets, for the move has caused equal concern to our farmers and lamb industry.”

Rural affairs secretary Margaret Beckett will discuss the issue with EU food safety commissioner David Byrne at Tuesdays (20 November) EU Agriculture Council.

The current EU ruling is for spinal column to be removed from one-year-old lambs. There is no proof that BSE is found in sheep.

A challenge by the European Commission to the French ban on British beef is being heard by the European Court of Justice.