17 November 2000
Union explains French beef stance

By FWi staff

THE National Farmers Union has explained why it does not want to see French beef banned in the UK.

The UK does not want to get into a tit-for-tat battle with France, NFU deputy president Tim Bennett said.

“We have a large sheep market in France. It would have a huge impact on our sheep market if France banned imports.”

The union fears that a ban on French beef could open the door for more Irish beef, where there is also an increased incidence of BSE, Mr Bennett said.

The NFU is also concerned about further undermining consumer confidence in beef, which has already collapsed in France.

“Banning French beef could damage our market as much as the French market,” Mr Bennett said.

Union president Ben Gill said he wants the EU Commission to try and restore confidence in French beef by publicising the measure taken in France to protect the public from BSE.

But he could not resist a swipe at the French authorities, which have maintained their ban on British beef, despite it being lifted elsewhere in the EU.

“My heart goes out to the French farmers, who we have never had a problem with,” he said.

“But it just shows how the chicken does come back to roost when you behave in an irresponsible, arrogant, dictatorial manner,” he said.

Meanwhile, EU farm finisters have been asked to give consumer affairs commissioner David Byrne details on how they are implementing safety measures to fight BSE.

Mr Byrne has written to request the information at next weeks monthly meeting of the EU agriculture ministers, reports the Ananova website.

A spokesman for the commissioner said: “He considers it essential that in the current circumstances we review the implementation of their controls.”

In the past the EU executive Commission has said some nations have been lax in applying controls to stop the spread of BSE.

This comes at a time when fears over the risk of BSE have soared in France after it emerged beef from infected herds had entered the food chain.

At the meeting ministers will also consider proposals to widen testing to including millions of older cattle, which are considered at greater risk.