France condemned after BSE discovered

April 12, 2002 The Scotsman by Fordyce Maxwell
FRANCE, which is maintaining a unilateral ban on British beef because of BSE fears, has been condemned for double-standards after an inspection revealed that its own internal anti-BSE controls were ineffective.

The inadequacies were found by inspectors from the EU's Food and Veterinary Office when it visited two laboratories, two rendering plants, three feed mills, four abattoirs, four cutting plants and a store used for meat and bone meal and specified risk materials last September.

The inspectors' report, only released this week, said that potentially infected material from animal carcasses was getting into animal feed, and that rules on handling specified risk materials (SRMs) - banned from the human food chain - were not fully implemented. Jim Walker, the president of NFU Scotland said: "The findings of the EU inspection report have blown the gaff on the French. We already know that their ban on our beef is illegal and blatant protectionism and self interest. What is now also clear is that they have to clean up their own act. They have been exposed as duplicitous and have hidden for too long behind the political excuse of possible change after their national elections this summer as a reasons for keeping the ban. It is time real political pressure was brought to bear on them."

There must be no further unilateral French action, he warned: "French BSE controls must be brought up to scratch and their ban on our beef lifted before they can look the rest of Europe in the eye."

THE National Beef Association has been reassured by Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs veterinary specialists that the increasing incidence of TB in UK cattle will not jeopardise future beef carcase exports, but it could delay resumption of live exports of pedigree and commercial cattle.

The explanation is that restrictions on bovine TB - still rare in Scotland, but increasing and closely linked with badgers in parts of England - are imposed on a herd and not on a national or regional basis. Prime animals finished within a herd under TB movement restrictions can still be sold for human consumption.

Keith Redpath, the beef association's export chairman, said: " Complete revision of the date-based export scheme is still on the cards for March-June next year. It's good news that the unwelcome increase in the spread of TB, now about 20 per cent a year, will not be an impediment."

New Scientist reports this week that the bacterium which causes bovine TB can remain alive in the soil for up to four months, which could allow healthy cattle to pick up the disease from pasture grazed earlier by affected animals.

The work on which the finding is based was carried out by Jamie Young and colleagues at Warwick University, but work is still to be done to confirm that infection can take place in this way. Government research into bovine TB is concentrating on spread by badgers and there are no restrictions on grazing on farms which have an outbreak of the disease.

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