Bans for your own good, say Germans

04 August 1999

Ban’s for your own good, say Germans

By FWi staff

BEEF producers have reacted with anger after Germany claimed that the decision to maintain its ban on British beef was in the interests of British farmers

Their comments came after German health minister Andrea Fischer told BBC Radio 4s Today programme that Germany was still unsure British beef was safe.

Ms Fischer added: “I think it is also maybe in British interests that we take some more measures of reinforcing trust in Germany in British beef.

“At the moment I think the German market is quite difficult for British beef because people maybe would not want to buy it.

“You can look at it not as a measure of distrust but as a measure of enforcing the trust of German consumers.”

Farmers said they felt angry and insulted by Ms Fischers comments, which came just after 48 hours after they held barbecues to celebrate the lifting of the ban.

“Quite obviously we are extremely disappointed,” said Tony Pexton, deputy president of the National Farmers Union.

“Its a small market, but for all that it isnt helpful for people to be questioning the decision that the EU has made.”

There is some confusion over exactly how much British beef Germany imported before the BSE crisis resulted in a global ban on British exports in March 1996.

The NFU claims that 1600 tonnes of fresh, frozen and chilled British beef were shipped to Germany during 1995.

But the Meat and Livestock Commission, Britains statutory meat promotion body, says that only 200 tonnes of beef to Germany during the same year.

Although the German market for beef is small, the fear is that Britains prospects of exporting beef elsewhere could now be damaged.

Farmer Glyn Davies, Tory Welsh Assembly agriculture spokesman, accused Germany of trying to shed worldwide doubt on the safety of British beef.

“The action by the Germans is a despicable attempt to damage the reputation of British beef” for commercial reasons and was not based on health, he said.

Mr Davies called on the government to demand that Brussels impose immediate punishment on Germany unless Bonn lifted the ban immediately.

“If this doesnt happen, Britain must take immediate retaliatory action,” he said.

“The German government must not be allowed to get away with this flagrant abuse of the rules.”

Martine Reicherts, the European Commissions chief spokesman, confirmed that legal action could be launched against Germany unless the ban was now lifted.

European rules mean that any British beef destined for export now has to be produced to strict conditions before it can be shipped out of the country.

“If the conditions are fulfilled, the Germans would have to allow the meat in,” said Ms Reicherts. “If they dont, we will study starting an infringement procedure.”

Peter Hardwick, head of the Meat and Livestock Commission in Brussels, said the control measures against BSE put in place by Britain guaranteed consumer health.

“One has to conclude that anyone who rejects that is now operating outside the area of scientific reason,” he said.

Britains anti-BSE measures include tracing all cattle from birth to death and restricting the age at which the slaughtered animals can go for human consumption.

The use of meat and bonemeal, offal and spinal cord has also been banned after they were blamed for spreading BSE to other cattle and humans.

Countries other than Germany appear to have accepted that British beef is now safe and that any risk of BSE has been minimised.

South Africa, Korea, and Italy are expected to be among the destinations to receive some of the first shipments of British beef in more than three years later this month.

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