Beef ban stays until test results known

21 November 2001

Beef ban stays until test results known

By Philip Clarke, European editor

FRANCE is planning to keep its ban on British beef until the UK has completed its expanded testing of over-30-month cattle.

Last week the UK announced it was stepping up its programme to test for BSE in all cattle born in the year after Aug 1, 1996 when the meat and bonemeal feed ban became fully effective.

At the farm council in Brussels, French farm minister Jean Glavany said he wanted to see the results of this before making any move to lift the trade ban.

He also defended a recent decision by French meat plants and supermarkets to stop importing foreign beef from any source during the month of November.

EU farm commissioner, Franz Fischler, said this was potentially in breach of EU law.

He drew attention to a 1982 European Court case against the Irish government, which had encouraged its industry to source domestically.

But Mr Glavany insisted the current situation was a private agreement by the French trade and was not backed by the government.

However, this appeared to contradict earlier press comments in which he attempted to claim credit for the deal.

A commission spokesman said Brussels was seeking clarification from Paris.

Even if it was only an inter-professional agreement, that could still be against EU law. There could still be a case for infringement proceedings, he said.

Meanwhile, France also came under pressure in the council over its plan to force the removal of vertebral column in sheep over six months old from Jan 1, 2002.

Food safety commissioner, David Byrne, said there was no scientific justification for this move, which the French call a BSE safety precaution.

He invited the French to send any new information to the scientific steering committee in Brussels and to refrain from taking unilateral action in advance.

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