21 January 2000
Industry hit by new beef ban fears

by FWi staff

FARM leaders are reeling after a leaked e-mail from the Welsh Assembly warned that the beef-on-the-bone ban could be reinstated within months.

New EU regulations due to come into force on July 1, will have two very serious effects, says the memo from the assemblys press office.

In-bone beef will once again be removed from shop shelves and vertebrae and intestines from sheep over 12 months old will have to be removed after slaughter.

It appears that the e-mail, written by a junior official, was mistakenly forwarded to journalists instead of assembly members.

Agriculture minister Nick Brown immediately dismissed the e-mail as “inaccurate in tone and content” and said it should not have been circulated.

But the National Farmers Union said that the news of the leaked e-mail had damaged the image of British beef at a very delicate time.

Farmers are striving to rebuild beef exports and force France to lift its embargo on shipments after the global ban on British beef was lifted last August.

NFU deputy leader Tim Bennett told Radio Four: “Were very annoyed about this leaked memo which damages the image of British beef quite unnecessarily.

Its a complete misunderstanding which will make the press and is just the sort of thing the French will latch on to even if there isnt a story.

The e-mail relates to an official European Commission proposal which will see final rules relating to specified risk material agreed in the spring.

Under current rules, Britain would be placed in a high-risk category.

But observers believe work to prevent BSE undertaken by Britain provides a strong argument for a separate categorisation which would not mean a ban.

The two-year beef-on-the-bone ban, imposed after government advisors said there was a small risk it could pass BSE to humans, was lifted last month.