19 January 2001

More BSE in non-BSE areas

MORE BSE cases have emerged in European countries which previously claimed to be free of the disease.

Italy reported its first case on Monday (Jan 15), prompting a media frenzy and a share price collapse for its biggest meat packer, Cremonini.

And Spain announced another three suspects on Tuesday which, if confirmed, will bring the total since BSE was first declared last month to eight. Spanish farmers took to the streets in force to protest, bringing meat production to a virtual standstill.

Spanish bull breeders are urging their government to extend BSE testing to include animals killed in the countrys bull fighting rings. More than 4000 bulls a year die in bullfights, reports Reuters, and their meat is considered a delicacy. Untested over-30-month animals now have to go into the purchase for destruction scheme.

Germany witnessed daily protests, mainly against a decision to introduce whole herd slaughter where BSE cases are found. The government plans to destroy up to 400,000 animals in the coming months in a bid to beat the disease. So far 13 cases have been confirmed.

Belgium reported two new BSE casualties, as a direct result of its over-30-month testing, bringing its total to 21. Austria, however, maintained its BSE-free status when a suspect case came back negative.

In France, which has reported its seventh casualty of the year, the government has decided that consumers should foot the bill for BSE testing. Traders had threatened to stop all meat production if they did not get help with the 500 francs (£50) cost of each test. Following a roundtable meeting on Tuesday, French farm minister, Jean Glavany, said consumers should pay more for tested beef.