Put beef safety first Euro-MPs

1 February 2000

Put beef safety first — Euro-MPs

By FWi staff

CONSUMER safety must come before concerns about the damage a complete ban on US meat products would cause, leading Euro MPs have insisted.

Labour MEP Eryl McNally, who heads the socialists trade and industry group, and Conservative agriculture spokesman Robert Sturdy, were responding to a report by EU scientists.

The scientists claim that US regulations are not being enforced and meat production is not monitored properly.

As this could mean hormone-treated meats being mixed with non-hormone treated meat, the team concludes that all US meat is suspect because it may contain traces of the hormone.

At present, the EU bans beef from cattle treated with hormones to make them grow faster. This new evidence could see this embargo extended to cover all American meat and meat products.

The USA denies the charges and has posted a point-by-point rebuttal on the Internet.

A full-scale ban would lead to serious retaliation from the USA, dwarfing the current retaliatory action to the hormone-treated beef boycott.

Mrs McNally told Radio 4s Farming Today programme that a ban would mean a rapid learning curve for the US about taking consumer opinion more seriously.

“Frankly if it takes a trade war make them see that consumer safety is paramount, and that there is considerable reservation in EU about their practices, then it will have to come to that.”

Mr Sturdy said that when in the past the EU had pushed for issues such as animal welfare “the Americans didnt seem to think it was important”.

He added: “I think now they will realise quite clearly that we have consumer interest at heart.

“UK farmers have gone through nearly every single hoop to prove that their beef is correct and now we have the best in the world.”

He said if the EU veterinary committee decided there was a real risk action should be taken.

“Why should we risk our markets to allow US products to come in which are not up to our standards?

“They have no traceability, no risk assessment, so why should we accept their products?”

Mrs McNally denied this was a protectionist move.

“If there is a scientific basis to what we say and clearly our team comes back with evidence we are perfectly entitled to put on a ban under WTO rules.

“None of us want to be protectionist, were not doing this as part of a trade war, we are doing this to protect people.”

If the EU decides there is a risk, US meat and meat products could be banned by 15 February.

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