UK shoppers buy French as beef case looms

13 December 1999

UK shoppers buy French as beef case looms

By FWi staff

AS the European Commission prepares legal action against France tomorrow (Tuesday) over its boycott on British beef, record numbers of British consumers are crossing the Channel for French produce.

The commission will issue a “reasoned opinion” accusing France of breaching European law, and giving it five days to respond.

Should Paris still refuse to drop the ban, the commission will open proceedings next week at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Food safety commissioner David Byrne cautioned that securing an emergency injunction for the ban to be lifted pending a judgement would be difficult. He added that fast-track court proceedings could take months

But in defiance of calls to boycott French produce, shoppers are cramming into ferries lured by the opportunity to stock up on cheap wine and beer for the festive season.

Reports said the three main ferry companies were turning away hundreds at Dover.

Meanwhile, defiant French prime minister Lionel Jospin has justified his countrys continued embargo on British beef by claiming “real countries” are not taking British beef.

Vowing to defend the ban “to the end”, Mr Jospin said “only micro-states” such as Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands were prepared to accept British beef.

As the row over BSE continues, a new report suggests the disease could turn out to be one of sciences greatest mistakes.

Professor Alan Ebringer, professor of Immunology at Kings College London, suggests a bacterium and not rogue prion proteins caused the disease.

If the report, published in the American Society of Microbiology journal Infection and Immunity, is right, it would mean the wholesale slaughter of cattle was a blunder.

Immunisation and changes in abattoir practices to stop offal becoming infected with the bacterium would have stopped the disease.

A second paper is said to suggest the same bacterium caused CJD in humans independently. This would mean there is no risk of contracting the disease from eating beef.

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