French safety agency to meet on beef

23 November 1999

French safety agency to meet on beef

By FWi staff

THE French food safety agency will today (Tuesday) meet to decide whether to recommend if the ban on British beef should be lifted

French agriculture minister Jean Glavany has referred the issue back to the agency — AFSA — after fresh assurances from Britain.

Britain last week agreed that its beef should be marked British or Scottish, one of the demands from France and Germany, which is continuing its own embargo.

There have also been shifts in diagnostic tests for BSE.

AFSA began the beef dispute with Britain by citing concerns about risks of BSE. The French boycott has continued in defiance of the European Union which decided in August to lift its three-and-a-half-year ban on British beef.

AFSA is now being asked to reconsider its decision after lengthy negotiations between France and Britain.

The European Commission has launched legal proceedings to force France to lift its ban. However, all sides have recently been making optimistic statements, raising hopes the dispute may be resolved without recourse to the courts.

Some commentators say Mr Glavanys decision to refer the issue back to the AFSA is a clear signal that France believes Britain has done enough to lift the ban.

The Conservative Party says the government has caved in to the French by agreeing to labelling beef, and fears it could lead to British beef being stigmatised.

The government insists no change in current law was being proposed. The commission was simply detailing existing regulations.

AFSA is independent of the French government, and there are no indications how long deliberations will take.

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