25 October 1999
Scientists silent on French beef ban

By FWi staff

SECRECY surrounded a meeting in Brussels today (Monday) when BSE experts convened to assess whether or not the ongoing French ban on British beef is justified.

For a second day, experts pored over a 600-page document from the French food standards agency to see if they could find any new evidence relating to the disease.

By lunchtime, it was clear that no outcome from the meeting would be made public.

Instead, any conclusion made by the experts was passed on to the full Scientific Steering Committee, which meets on Thursday and Friday.

According to a commission spokesman, that committee will decide whether the French document contains any new information relating to British beef and BSE.

If there is, the scientists must then decide whether the information is significant enough to require a re-examination of the date-based export scheme for British beef.

In the light of both those decisions, the commission could then suspend or amend the export scheme, or initiate legal proceedings against France for banning British beef.

Alternatively, a diplomatic solution may be found.

Nick Brown, the British farm minister, and Jean Glavany, his French counterpart, are due to meet at the weekend and both will be keen to avoid a full-blown trade war.