04 July 1997
EC slams Britain over beef exports
The European Commission (EC) berated Britain for its failure to enforce the beef export ban in the wake of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy crisis. A Belgian beef mafia is reported to have exploited lax controls at British ports to smuggle out beef.
The EC said 1,600 tons of UK beef had been exported to the Netherlands and partly re-exported to Russia and Egypt via France and Spain. A Commission spokesman denied reports on Wednesday that some of the beef had reached consumers in France, Spain, Portugal or Italy.
The reports arose from contradictory statements by Commission officials.
It was also claimed that British beef had reached Belgium relabelled as from the Netherlands. Some 700 tonnes of UK beef was confiscated from the port of
Vlissingen in April. Another 200 tons was seized in Rotterdam last month. Dutch authorities only obtained confirmation of the origin last week.
The Commission spokesman said export controls were manifestly inefficient.
This was concluded following an inspection by its officials at British customs last week. Now the Commission is considering launching infringement procedures against the UK at the European Court of Justice, in Luxembourg.
British officials were furious with Brussels after they claimed Brussels
wrecked an undercover investigation into illegal beef shipments.