14 June 1999
Farm ministers consider bonemeal ban
By Johann Tasker in Luxembourg
EUROPEAN agriculture ministers meeting in Luxembourg this afternoon are expected to discuss calls for an EU-wide ban on meat and bone meal in animal feed.
The controversial feedstuff, once blamed for the rapid spread of BSE in Britain, is under the spotlight again because of the dioxin food scare in Belgium.
European-wide restrictions imposed in the wake of the BSE crisis banned mammalian meat and bonemeal only from feed for cattle, sheep and goats.
Although the UK extended that ban to cover all farmed livestock, Continental farmers still legitimately use meat and bonemeal in feed for pigs and poultry.
But the Belgian dioxin scare has drawn attention to the practice and it now looks like other countries also want tighter controls on what goes into animal feed.
The Belgium delegation will come under fire today from other European ministers angry at the Belgian governments handling of the dioxin-in-feed scare.
Belgian officials are expected to mount a strong defence in an attempt to justify their handling of the dioxin scandal over the past few weeks.
But calls for meat and bonemeal to be banned completely are growing and were led by the French agriculture minister Jean Glavany before todays meeting.
French farmers have suffered particularly badly because of the Belgian dioxin scare with temporary restrictions placed on a number of beef, poultry, and sheep farms.
A French report last week claimed to have found instances where strict rules requiring meat and bonemeal to be heat-treated prior to use were being broken.
The French animal feed industry has indicated it would not oppose an EU-wide ban so long as the Paris government helped dispose of existing stocks
Germany, however, which produces around 600,000 tonnes of meat and bonemeal each year, is likely to oppose the move.
The Germans think the idea of banning meat and bonemeal is a knee-jerk reaction to a problem which could be solved by more strictly monitoring feed plants.
Although no decision will be made today on whether to outlaw meat and bonemeal, the unfavourable publicity will have knock-on effects for UK farmers.
The Meat and Livestock Commission had prepared a strategy paper on the possibility of re-introducing porcine meat and bonemeal for UK poultry feed.
But efforts to pursue the idea with government ministers in London are now likely to be postponed at least until the current controversy has died down.