11 May 1998
UK cattle tracing impresses EU ministers
By Johann Tasker in Newcastle-on-Tyne
EUROPEAN union farm ministers are impressed by efforts made to ensure British beef is safe from BSE – but there is still some way to go before the export ban is lifted.
That was the message this afternoon (Monday) after the ministers saw an exhibition of the UKs cattle tracing system, due to start in September.
The exhibition was at the Duke of Northumberlands estate near Newcastle, on the second day of a three-day Informal EU Council meeting. It included videos and a demonstration of beef animals being electronically tagged.
“Afterwards, meat can be checked right back to the animal that was slaughtered,” said UK farm minister Jack Cunningham. “It was a pretty impressive demonstration of how we can guarantee the authenticity and safety of our beef.”
But farm ministers from Germany and Austria, who have previously opposed the lifting of the ban, remain sceptical.
“We have to have steps to reach the goal,” said Austrian farm minister Wilhelm Molterer. “Its not a question of exhibitions, its a question of the science behind the work done, and afterwards we will decide at the level of the ministers of agriculture.”
A spokesman for Germam farm minister Jochen Borchert said Britain had to be completely free from BSE before the ban could be lifted.
EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler said that he remained confident that the UK was doing everything possible to get the ban lifted. “That is the reason ministers are here today, and I must say I personally am really impressed,” he said.