15 December 1999
Europe puts off beef labelling for a year
By Philip Clarke
EUROPEAN agriculture ministers have postponed the compulsory labelling of beef, including details of where animals are slaughtered, for another 12 months.
France wanted to push ahead with new labelling rules even though many member states lack the necessary databases and passports for such a system.
But other ministers, who discussed beef labelling, decided to postpone the rules during a meeting of farm ministers in Brussels on Wednesday (14 December).
French agriculture minister Jean Glavany later told journalists that France had been badly let down by the intransigence of other member states.
The introduction of beef labelling was part of the deal reached last month between Paris, London and Brussels for lifting the French beef ban, he claimed.
This was vehemently denied by food safety commissioner David Byrne, who said the two issues were totally unrelated.
The date-based export scheme already ensured full traceability for British beef, which could be labelled as having been produced under the scheme, he said.
“To blame what went on in council today does not give the full picture,” he said. “In fact I would not consider it to be accurate at all.”
The spat followed earlier claims by French prime minister, Lionel Jospin, that he had offered a special deal for grass-fed Scottish beef to be allowed into France.
Downing Street said that to have accepted such an offer would have undermined the entire date-based export scheme for British beef.
Meanwhile, voluntary beef labelling systems, such as the French Viande Francaise campaign, may continue but only for domestically-produced meat.