Document Directory

03 Dec 99 - CJD - EU beef ban 'was foolish measure'
01 Dec 99 - CJD - Beef on bone ban to end by Christmas
24 Nov 99 - CJD - Girl, 13, 'is affected by CJD
19 Nov 99 - CJD - Brussels Offers Beef Deal
18 Nov 99 - CJD - Officials chew over wording of beef war treaty
17 Nov 99 - CJD - US Sheep may have BSE
15 Nov 99 - CJD - Beef row keeps cork on Beaujolais
15 Nov 99 - CJD - Beef Talks Draw To Close
15 Nov 99 - CJD - Government turns up heat over French beef ban
15 Nov 99 - CJD - Outrage over French slaughter claims
12 Nov 99 - CJD - A matter of life and death
12 Nov 99 - CJD - Exactly what's what in the quarrel about British cattle
11 Nov 99 - CJD - No need to beef about face cream fears
10 Nov 99 - CJD - France Refuses To Lift Beef Ban
10 Nov 99 - CJD - France raises temperature in beef war
10 Nov 99 - CJD - The French stand by their ban
10 Nov 99 - CJD - France may risk legal action over beef ban
06 Nov 99 - CJD - Move to cut abattoir checks
05 Nov 99 - CJD - Move to new BSE tests
05 Nov 99 - CJD - Germany Joins Talks On Beef Ban
04 Nov 99 - CJD - Farmers give up on 'nice Mr Brown'
04 Nov 99 - CJD - France has to lift beef ban within two weeks
04 Nov 99 - CJD - France wants to end embargo as soon as possible, says minister
04 Nov 99 - CJD French given two weeks to accept UK beef imports
04 Nov 99 - CJD - Scientists devise BSE test



03 Dec 99 - CJD - EU beef ban 'was foolish measure'

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Friday 3 December 1999


The European Union was attacked by the Ministry of Agriculture's top civil servant yesterday for imposing the worldwide export ban on British beef three years ago.

Richard Packer, Permanent Secretary (editor's note : Richard Packer is thought to be the driving force behind the decision to suppress the names of individuals allocated blame by the Philips enquiry under the 30 year rule), described the ban - which was not lifted until Aug 1 this year - as a "foolish measure". It was a "disproportionate one" since Britain had already taken "satisfactory" measures to protect consumers, he told the BSE inquiry in London.

Mr Packer defended measures taken by MAFF to protect consumers before and after the Government announced the link five days before the European Union ban on March 25, 1996, and claimed there was "common ground" with Brussels at that time that these measures were satisfactory.

(editor's note : although the link between BSE and nvCJD was discovered in Autumn 95, the information was suppressed until March 96 to enable MAFF to implement enforcement measures for specified bovine offal removal from carcasses - no enforcement took place prior to this. 49% of abbatoirs were not compliant with the regulations in Autumn 95, the BSE/nvCJD link was made public only after compliance to 100% was enforced in March 96. MAFF effectively permitted the public to be exposed to infected material from Autumn 95 to March 96 as a "worthwhile price" to cover up its incompetence in not previously enforcing the removal of specified bovine offals from carcasses. In the circumstances it is not surprising that EU officials refused to accept MAFF assurances that British beef was safe and banned its export)

If the EU Commission had been unhappy with the measures it had the power to impose tougher ones to protect consumers here. But the Commission did not take that step, confirming that it was satisfied with the safeguards.

The inquiry, which began on March 9, 1998, is investigating the emergence of BSE in this country, the actions previous governments took to control the disease and the adequacy of official measures to protect the public.

Ministers expect to receive its findings by the end of next March.


01 Dec 99 - CJD - Beef on bone ban to end by Christmas

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor, and George Jones, Chief Political Correspondent

Telegraph ... Wednesday 1 December 1999


The two-year ban on beef on the bone will be lifted on Dec 17, ensuring that T-bone steaks, oxtails and ribs are back on British menus before Christmas.

Nick Brown: told MPs he would use accelerated procedures to lift the ban by Dec 17 However, butchers and restaurants found selling the cuts before the ban is officially lifted are unlikely to face prosecution; many have never stopped selling them since the Government introduced the universally unpopular restriction.

Butchers and farmers say that consumer demand actually increased when the ban was announced, reinforcing their view that the Government misjudged the mood of the public. Nick Brown, the Agriculture Minister, was cheered in the Commons when he made the long-awaited announcement ending one of the most unpopular measures taken by Tony Blair's Government.

He told MPs he would use accelerated procedures to lift the ban by Dec 17, exactly two years and a day after it was imposed as part of the measures to reduce the spread of CJD. His decision followed advice from the chief medical officers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who agreed that in the light of latest scientific evidence it was safe to lift the ban on retail sales.

The devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales are expected to follow suit. But a prohibition on the use of bones for manufacturing food products, including infant foods, will stay . Mr Brown dropped a broad hint that no action would be taken if shops and restaurants started to serve T-bone steaks and ribs of beef now.

"I know that enforcement authorities will wish to take note of my statement today," he said. But he said the Ministry of Agriculture could not intervene to stop about half-a-dozen pending prosecutions. A decision on whether to proceed would be a matter for the prosecuting authorities.

The decision coincided with an announcement by Germany that it would lift its ban on British beef imports by next February. The Berlin government said it had persuaded its Länder - the local states responsible for public health - to conform to an EU deadline on legal action due to run out today.

However, France - also threatened with legal sanctions - was given another week after promising that it would lift its ban as soon as its food safety experts gave the go-ahead. Tim Yeo, the Tory agriculture spokesman, attacked the Government for not lifting the ban sooner.

He said it had cost farmers £170 million over two years - and another £15 million since September, when the chief medical officer in England, Prof Liam Donaldson, recommended lifting the ban but ran into opposition from his Scottish and Welsh counterparts.

Mr Yeo said: "I would have liked to see beef on the bone on the table by dinner time this evening. It's only if that happens that we will be sending the right signals to French consumers that British beef is safe to eat."

He said the Government's failure to lift the ban more quickly had seriously damaged confidence in British beef abroad and made the task of regaining export markets more difficult.

Mr Brown defended the decision to wait until Scotland and Wales fell into line - even though Tory MPs protested that it meant English farmers had been penalised. He said it was in the public interest to proceed "consistently" throughout the UK.

Mr Blair said the Government had been right to introduce the ban, even though he is understood to have privately regretted the way the measure came to symbolise the Government's "bossy" and authoritatian tendencies.

He told the Jimmy Young programme on BBC Radio 2 it would have been unwise, given the history of BSE, to ignore the previous chief medical officer's advice that the ban should be introduced as a precautionary measure.


24 Nov 99 - CJD - Girl, 13, 'is affected by CJD

By Aisling Irwin, Medical Correspondent

Telegraph ... Wednesday 22 November 1999


The human form of mad cow disease may have affected its youngest victim - a 13-year-old girl .

If the illness is confirmed it raises questions about how a child who was under a year old in 1986 when the disease was formally identified could have contracted new variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease. The case may also shed light on the disease's incubation period.

So far the youngest of the 48 people to have died from nvCJD has been 16 . Although the disease can be confirmed only after death, the girl is showing signs linked with nvCJD. David Churchill, chairman of the Human BSE Foundation, said: "This case raises a whole new spectre. There's no way anyone can say this child picked up nvCJD prior to knowledge about BSE. In 1986 BSE was not only identified but becoming prevalent.

"It can only have been picked up after the emergence of BSE, and the likelihood is that it was through baby food." But Heather Paine, for the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, said she believed that no high-risk beef material had been used in baby products.

The Government did not ban parts of the cow most likely to be infected until 1989, when the girl would have been three. Before the age of one she would probably have been taken off baby food and been eating home-prepared meals which may have included mince and beef cuts , said Ms Paine.


19 Nov 99 - CJD - Brussels Offers Beef Deal

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Friday 19 November 1999


The European Commission has offered a way out of the Anglo-French beef war.

Officials in Brussels have apparently cleared a major stumbling block by deciding that beef exported from the UK can, after all, be labelled as British .

Both France and Germany have been pushing for the right to clearly mark the UK product - but under EU Single Market rules an importing country cannot oblige an exporter to identify the country of origin of beef.

This is because the French, for example, could use that information as a way of steering consumers away from products rivalling their own meat.

But now, in a statement clarifying existing labelling rules the Commission says beef exported under the Date-based Export Scheme can be marked as British.

Legal experts within the Commission say a label such as British, XEL Beef, would not break the rules on countries of origin.

"This information is not a simple mark of national origin but an indication that the meat has been produced in accordance with the Date-based Export Scheme in force in the UK," said the statement.

The move was seen in Brussels as a clever way of getting France and Britain off the hook without concessions on either side.

British officials made clear that no change in current law was being proposed and that the Commission was simply detailing existing regulations.

And a senior French government spokesman in Brussels said: "It is certainly something which can help us, but I cannot tell you if it is a real breakthrough until we have studied it further."


18 Nov 99 - CJD - Officials chew over wording of beef war treaty

By John Lichfield in Paris and Stephen Castle in Strasbourg

Independent ... Thursday 18 November 1999


Hopes remained high yesterday of a rapid settlement in the beef dispute, despite the start of European Union legal proceedings against France.

The French minister for Europe, Pierre Moscovici, said an agreement between Britain and France was "very close". Paris had asked for further assurances from Britain on its promise to speed up the introduction of new diagnostic tests for BSE, which will be used throughout the EU from next April. Contacts between London and Paris were "on the right road", he said.

Officials in London, Paris and Brussels continued to discuss by telephone the texts of the deal to end the French boycott.

However there was no phone contact between the British and French agriculture ministers, Nick Brown and Jean Glavany, indicating that the terms of the agreement have not quite been finalised.

One source in Brussels argued that the outline of a deal has been fleshed out, but it is up to Paris to make the next formal move to accept.

The European Commissioner for health and consumer protection, David Byrne, will hold a brief meeting today with the German health minister, Andrea Fischer, over Berlin's failure to remove its embargo.

The Government received a boost when the Norwegian agriculture ministry decided to lift its ban on British beef. Although Norway was never a significant market for UK meat, a British official welcomed the decision, arguing: "This bears out the scientific analysis contained in the latest analysis of the scientific steering committee."

On Tuesday, Brussels decided to initiative legal action against the French, and to send a letter to the German government demanding clarification of its intentions.

Berlin has argued that it intends to lift the ban, but has yet to get the necessary measures through its upper house of parliament as is required by its constitution.

The package agreed between the two countries and the European Commission - "additional guarantees" according to the French; "clarifications" according to the British - still have to be approved by the French scientists who started the crisis in the first place.


17 Nov 99 - CJD - US Sheep may have BSE

Staff Reporter

Times ... Wednesday 17 November 1999


Agriculture officials in the US want to slaughter two flocks of sheep they fear may have been exposed to "mad cow" disease. The 350 East Friesian sheep, imported from Belgium and The Netherlands, are under quarantine at two Vermont farms.

The owners and the US Department of Agriculture are deadlocked , with the federal officials claiming the safest step would be to destroy them and the farmers insisting that the Government itself is mad.

Larry Faillace brought the sheep to America in 1996 to make speciality cheeses. The Agriculture Department halted further imports and said that, because they came from areas where BSE had been found, they could harbour the disease .

Mr Faillace said: "The chances of any sheep in the world [getting BSE] are remote."


15 Nov 99 - CJD - Beef row keeps cork on Beaujolais

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Monday 15 November 1999


Farmers have declared Thursday "British Beef & Beer Day" in an attempt to sabotage the annual festival for Beaujolais Nouveau.

Instead of buying bottles of the new vintage French wine, consumers will be urged to switch to British beer in protest at the refusal of Paris to lift its illegal ban on British beef. Ben Gill, president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "If the French don't want our beef, then we don't want their Beaujolais."

He said: "We are trying to cancel this year's Beaujolais Nouveau Day. When French wine merchants arrive with their Beaujolais we hope they will find British consumers raising a glass of beer to British beef instead." In one London pub customers who have already bought bottles of Beaujolais will be offered beer in exchange.

The protest is part of farmers' new tactics to appeal directly to consumers' sense of fair play. Details were released as Nick Brown, Minister of Agriculture, prepared to meet his French opposite number, Jean Glavany, in Brussels today before a regular meeting of the EU Council of farm ministers.

The talks follow further signals at the weekend that France is determined to prolong its ban for as long as possible, even though it is in breach of a European Union ruling that British beef is safe to be exported anywhere in the world.

Martine Aubry, the French employment minister, said that France was prepared to take "several more weeks" to secure extra safety measures for consumers. Germany too appears to be hardening its line against British beef in response to the French tactics.

David Byrne, the EU commissioner for consumer safety, is due to announce tomorrow the start of EU legal action against France when the college of EU Commissioners meets in Strasbourg.


15 Nov 99 - CJD - Beef Talks Draw To Close

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Monday 15 November 1999


The latest beef talks between Britain and France have ended in Brussels with a Commission spokeswoman saying: "They are close to a solution."

However, the meeting between Nick Brown and French counterpart Jean Glavany lasted only 10 minutes , and Commissioner David Byrne confirmed he would recommend legal proceedings against France on Tuesday.

Earlier, the Government denied claims that it was prepared to launch another cattle slaughter programme to appease the French over the safety of British beef.

"We have not agreed to a whole-herd slaughter scheme or a selective cull and we have not agreed to any new conditions," said a Foreign Office spokesman.

The denial followed a French news agency report claiming that French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany had secured new concessions from Britain in the latest round of talks.

The Government carried out a massive slaughter programme at the height of the BSE crisis - mostly, according to the National Farmers' Union, of animals which did not need to die on safety grounds.

Any new slaughter campaign would be greeted with dismay in farming circles. But a Government official insisted: "There is no question of killing the cattle."


15 Nov 99 - CJD - Government turns up heat over French beef ban

By Bob Roberts

Independent ... Monday 15 November 1999


The Government was demanding the European Commission start legal action against the French beef ban, just hours before Agriculture Minister Nick Brown is set for a showdown with his French counterpart over the crisis.

Mr Brown signalled he had lost patience with the French refusal to lift their ban on British beef and said unless there was a last minute breakthrough he wanted action from Brussels.

He said: "I shall be handing a formal note to the Commission on Monday morning for the Commission to consider formal infraction proceedings on Tuesday."

Infraction proceedings are where an EU country is taken to court for breaching treaty provisions.

Mr Brown said he would "specifically" be asking for the proceedings to be expedited quickly. "In other words for a short route to be taken to get an early resolution of this. I think the facts are pretty clear cut."

Although he did not specifically rule out a negotiated solution to the crisis when he meets French Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany in Brussels today he said: "I said at the beginning we were only allowing a matter of days on this process.

"If there is not a clear way forward to the French lifting the ban then on Tuesday the Commission will have to consider infraction proceedings."

His comments came as optimism rose in South Africa that the beef ban would soon be lifted in that country.

Tony Blair held talks with South African president Thabo Mbeki during the Commonwealth Summit in Durban in a bid to persuade him to restore the trade, worth about £25 million a year to British farmers.

The Prime Minister told Sky News' Sunday with Adam Boulton: "British beef is still banned I am afraid and wrongly, still in many countries of the world.

"In South Africa it is still banned but in fact we have got a couple of teams of experts from South Africa and Britain who are working together to get it lifted here because this used to be a very big market for British beef."

In South Africa, sources in the Pretoria-based government have said privately they are optimistic that their country's import ban will be lifted but British officials travelling with Mr Blair are less hopeful that the trade could be swiftly resumed.

Meanwhile farmers' leaders were set to call on consumers to say "Non" to French wine on Beaujolais Nouveau day later this week.

The National Farmers' Union has instead declared the traditional welcome given to the first Beaujolais to arrive in Britain on November 18 as British Beef and Beer Day.

In defiance of France's decision to continue to ban British beef, despite a worldwide ban being lifted nearly four months ago, the NFU will encourage pubs and restaurants across Britain to serve up home-grown fare instead.

NFU president Ben Gill said: "If the French don't want our beef then we don't want their Beaujolais. Britain's farmers produce beef, barley and hops - in fact, all produce - to the highest standards in the world and we are proud of this fact."


15 Nov 99 - CJD - Outrage over French slaughter claims

by Ben Leapman and Jonathan Annells

Evening Standard ... Monday 15 November 1999


France today escalated its propaganda war with Britain over British beef by claiming that Britain was ready to make new concessions.

French agriculture minister Jean Glavany claimed that Britain had agreed to slaughter entire herds in which a BSE case was detected, rather than merely individual animals.

Downing Street swiftly issued a categoric denial . The French statement was dismissed as a new attempt to score points in advance of a scheduled meeting between the British and French agriculture ministers this afternoon.

At Westminster it was considered inconceivable that Tony Blair and Agriculture Minister Nick Brown could back down on such a scale. And there was a swift denial from the Prime Minister's official spokesman.

Such a climbdown would be a huge embarrassment for the British Government, whose preferred scheme for tackling BSE was backed unanimously by a committee of European Union scientists.

If it were confirmed that Britain had made such an offer, it would certainly lead to calls for Mr Brown's resignation. The latest twist emerged ahead of the scheduled meeting between Mr Brown and Mr Glavany this afternoon.

There were continuing suspicions that even if Britain did not stage such a dramatic climbdown, it was ready to unveil several smaller-scale concessions to try to resolve the dispute without recourse to the courts.

If no solution is found, tomorrow's weekly meeting of the European Commission in Strasbourg is expected to agree to launch legal action against France for failing to lift its beef ban.

The news wire service Agence France Presse today quoted Mr Glavany saying that on Friday, at an experts' meeting, the British had indicated they were ready to agree to the slaughter of entire herds where a case of mad cow disease had been detected - not just the single animal concerned.

AFP quoted M Glavany saying that the "positive note" was "in line with the guarantees sought by France".

However, a British official in Brussels said: "We have not agreed to a Whole Herd Slaughter Scheme or selective cull . We do have plans to deal with the cohorts (animals that feed from the same trough) born in 1996. So far no such cases have been found."

Mr Blair said: "There are two ways of doing this.

"We can use the law - and of course we should, and will, if the French refuse to abide by the proper law and the proper science now.

"But in the end it must be better to do this by persuading them because then you've got a better chance of selling the beef."

At the same time, the Prime Minister welcomed "positive" weekend talks with South African President Thabo Mbeki over the lifting of his country's ban on British beef exports.

South Africa bought £24 million of beef from the UK in 1995, before the latest BSE crisis erupted, making it a far more valuable market than most European countries.


12 Nov 99 - CJD - A matter of life and death

By Steve Connor

Independent ... Friday 12 November 1999


Most animals have prions - proteins that can cause fatal nervous diseases. So why do we have them in the first place?

Hamsters have them. So do goats, sheep, mink, mice and man. In fact, in just about every animal where scientists have looked, prions can be found. These are the mysterious proteins that are responsible for a range of strange nervous diseases, including BSE in cattle and CJD in humans. Now the biggest mystery of all - why we need prions in the first place - may have been solved.

A Cambridge biochemist, David Brown, believes he has evidence to suggest that animals need prions as protection against that highly necessary, but potentially lethal, activity known as breathing oxygen. All living things, save for a few lowly bacteria, need oxygen, but dealing in this vital currency of respiration risks exposure to the chemical's highly reactive form, called superoxide. Dr Brown suggests that the reason why prions are so common is because they are a crucial line of defence against superoxide.

"All animals need oxygen and as a consequence of using oxygen they produce superoxide, which is basically oxygen with an extra electron stuck on to it," says Dr Brown. "This is quite dangerous because the electron can shoot off and damage cells. Anything to make this superoxide less harmful is of benefit."

If the prion protein does serve this function, Dr Brown has solved a mystery that goes back several decades, when scientists first linked prions to such deadly nervous diseases as scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cows and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in humans. Prions are directly involved, and may even be the cause of these strange illnesses, yet for all the research that has been done on them, no one has yet understood why we need such proteins, if they are so potentially fatal.

The original name for a prion was protease-resistant protein (PrP) because it could exist in a form that was not broken down by digestive enzymes. In fact, this was how it came to the attention of scientists. Isolating the protein soon led to finding out its primary structure - the sequence of 253 amino acids that made up the protein chain. Then scientists found that the PrP gene responsible for the human protein resides on chromosome 20 and is highly "conserved" between different species, meaning that it is virtually identical between one animal and the next. It indicated that it must serve some common function dating back many millions of years in evolutionary history - a key indication that the normal form of the PrP protein has a pretty important role. For 20 or more years, however, the nature of this function remained elusive. The most that scientists were able to do was to categorise the nature of the illnesses resulting from defects in the protein. For example, small mutations in the gene can result in a wide variety of inherited diseases. Substituting one amino acid for another at the 102nd link in the protein chain, for instance, results in Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker disease in humans - an unusual brain disorder. Substituting the 200th amino acid causes a type of CJD seen in Libyan Jews, and changing the 129th amino acid can cause the highly distressing condition known as fatal familial insomnia, which causes people to die after months of being incapable of catching even a minute's sleep.

But it is the non-inherited, transmissible forms of prion disease - notably BSE - that have caused the most intense interest. A curiosity is that the amino acids of PrP protein are exactly the same as normal PrP in both healthy cows and those with BSE, as they are in healthy sheep and sheep with scrapie. Stanley Prusiner, the California University scientist who won a Nobel Prize for his prion hypothesis, believes the disease is caused by deformed versions of the protein (deformed, that is, in its three-dimensional shape) triggering a similar deformity in normal, healthy versions of the protein.

Yet this still does not explain why we need prions. Dr Brown, who leads a team in Cambridge's department of biochemistry, discovered what he thinks is the crucial clue to the protein's normal function when he found that it can strongly bind to copper. Proteins that bind to this metal could have a role as an enzyme involved in coping with superoxide. Other enzymes, called superoxide dismutases, are known to do this and the PrP protein may perform a similar task, Dr Brown says. "Usually copper in a protein can be effective in bringing this about. Like wires, they can shuttle electrons around. Probably what happens in this case is that the electron is shuttled on to the prion protein itself and oxidises the prion protein. A particular amino acid in the protein can become oxidised and is quite stable. The cell can get rid of the superoxide in this way."

The evidence for this comes from experimental results to be published in the Biochemical Journal. Dr Brown manufactured pure PrP protein by inserting the mouse PrP gene into bacteria that grew in fermentation. He found evidence that the protein, when bound up with copper, acted like a superoxide dismutase enzyme - to destroy the harmful molecule. He repeated the experiment with chicken PrP protein and found it, too, did the same.

Dr Brown believes the protein has an especially important role to play at the junctions - synapses - between brain cells, moping up superoxide before it has a chance to damage these all-important connections within the central nervous system. "The implications are that we now know what the normal protein does. The main aspect of prion diseases is that the normal protein is turned into this pathological form that causes the disease; we are now at a point where we can try to find out about the abnormal form."

Knowing the normal role of the PrP protein in the body should shed light on what happens when the abnormal prion protein appears. It may be that the body loses its prime defence in the brain against superoxide. Or it could be that a build-up of defective prions causes a dangerous build-up of copper.

Although Dr Brown's research says nothing about the mysterious nature of how a prion "infects" other prions, he seems to have come close to answering one of the more enduring problems of prion disease. In man or mouse, prions are there to stop oxygen burning us up.


12 Nov 99 - CJD - Exactly what's what in the quarrel about British cattle

By Michael McCarthy and Colin Brown

Independent ... Friday 12 November 1999


Q. Why will the French not take our beef?

A. Because they say their food scientists are not happy with the measures Britain has taken to prevent meat from animals with BSE, or mad cow disease, from entering the food chain.

Q. What does Britain say to that?

A. That the measures put in place are very extensive and comply in every way with the terms of the Florence agreement negotiated by John Major in 1996, to allow British beef to be eventually re-exported once again. They include a "cattle passport scheme", a date-based export scheme, a mass slaughter of older cows and very much tighter restrictions on slaughterhouses and meat processors.

Q. What is the view of the European Commission, the EU's civil service in Brussels?

A. EC scientists feel the actions Britain has taken are adequate and that the export of British beef can recommence throughout Europe.

Q. Why is France holding out?

A. French Government scientists seem to want even tighter controls over British meat. Among other demands they want labelling , to which Britain has no objection, but they also want "traceability" of the meat increased. In compliance with EU requirements Britain hasset up a complex "cattle passport" scheme allowing the background of every single beef cow born in Britain to be traced from cradle to grave, to prove it did not come from a BSE-affected herd. France is apparently seeking "traceability" not just of animals, but of individual cuts of British meat in a French butcher's shop window, which British officials feel would be virtually impossible.

Q. Are France's objections purely scientific?

A. There is some suggestion that French ministers feel they might be held personally responsible under French law if any French person contracted the human version of BSE, new-variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, from eating infected British beef.

Q. What can Tony Blair do ?

A. Not a lot personally, other than let the European Union begin formal legal proceedings against France if the French continue with their refusal.

Q. Why was the export of British beef banned by the European Union in the first place?

A. Because the British Government announced in March 1996 that there was a possible link between consumption of meat from animals suffering from BSE (or mad cow disease) and nvCJD in human beings.


11 Nov 99 - CJD - No need to beef about face cream fears

Barbara Lantin

Telegraph ... Thursday 11 November 1999


The hazard of beef products in cosmetics

The suggestion that British women may unwittingly have smeared extracts of cow's brain or placenta on their faces - thereby theoretically exposing themselves to the risk of BSE - is enough to deter anybody from using anything but soap and water ever again.

The implication that suspect substances were most likely to be found in products at the top end of the beauty market is particularly unnerving for those who feel uncomfortable spending less on face cream than they would on a pair of shoes. So, just how serious is the risk - and what other nasties lurk in our anti-ageing serums?

The fears, which came to light in a summary of evidence recently published by the BSE inquiry, centred on whether tissue from the spleen, thymus, brain or placenta of sick cows could have found its way into anti-wrinkle creams . If it did, and the creams were used on broken skin, there is a theoretical danger that the BSE agent could have entered the bloodstream.

To avoid a panic, it was decided not to ban these products from cosmetics, but to try to gauge the size of the risk. In 1990, the Department of Trade and Industry wrote to the Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association, which represents the major cosmetics companies. It asked that any suspect tissue be removed from cosmetic products or for an assurance to be given that ingredients made from what is euphemistically referred to as "lightly processed" animal derivatives did not originate from the UK, Ireland or the Channel Islands.

"We found that British companies were not using these ingredients and imported products that - coming mainly from France and America - did not contain material of UK bovine origin," says Marion Kelly, director of CTPA. "Very few animal products are used in cosmetics now, or were then, and those that are do not present any risk vis-à-vis BSE and never have done."

John Hawk, professor of dermatology at St Thomas' Hospital, London, agrees that the risk is minimal. "Broken skin is a possible method of transmission of BSE, but it is such a rare disorder that getting it from a face cream would be extremely unlikely," he says.

Perhaps, but many of us would rather not slap placenta or spleen on our faces even if it is guaranteed BSE-free. Since 1997, bovine brain and spinal cord have been banned from cosmetics under the European Cosmetics Directive. And though Continental offal could find its way on to our dressing tables, this is unlikely.

Since the end of last year, all ingredients for cosmetics, soaps and personal care products have had to be listed . "Thymus gland" or "bovine spleen" are not obvious crowd-pullers. As a beauty writer on one of the major glossy magazines puts it: "We crawl all over their factories on press trips. I can't imagine them using these kinds of things. Plants are the main source of ingredients, now."

However, some products made from British cattle are still used. Tallow derivatives - such as magnesium stereate - are widely used in cosmetics and are considered safe because they undergo long processing at high temperatures. Collagen, used both in cosmetics and injections, is also heavily processed, and much of it comes from one particular herd of cattle in California.

The main ingredient in virtually all face creams will harm no one, but neither will it do much good. It is water.


10 Nov 99 - CJD - France Refuses To Lift Beef Ban

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Wednesday 10 November 1999


France refuses to lift its ban on British imports until additional health safeguards are put in place.

The warning comes 24 hours before the French government is to respond to the European Commission's demand for the ban on British beef to be lifted.

Tony Blair says the Government is prepared to take legal action to force the French to comply with the Commission's instructions if necessary.

British ministers had hoped Mr Blair's chat with his French counterpart Lionel Jospin on Saturday had cleared the way for the ending of the ban.

But France's parliamentary relations minister Daniel Vaillant said Britain had not met French requirements to ensure British beef was free of BSE.

"The conditions imposed by France are not yet in place. For now, there can be no unilateral lifting of the embargo," he said.

"We prefer a solution that allows us to guarantee health and at the same time leads to a way out of the crisis."

The suggestion that France is seeking to impose new conditions to the date-based export scheme already in place drew a furious response from Agriculture Minister Nick Brown.

"It is not for the French government to set extra conditions around the date-based export scheme," he said.

"That scheme has been agreed with the European Union. It is the law and if we cannot get agreement by negotiation we will look to the Commission to enforce the law."


10 Nov 99 - CJD - France raises temperature in beef war

By Geoff Meade, PA News European Editor, in Brussels

Independent ... Wednesday 10 November 1999


France raised the temperature in the beef war today - 24 hours before Paris was expected to decide whether or not to lift its ban on British imports.

French consumer affairs minister Marylise Lebranchu shrugged off the threat of legal action by Brussels and insisted there were still difficulties over UK health and safety safeguards against mad cow disease.

She hinted at the need for concessions from Britain to appease French consumers before the row is resolved.

The setback came after EU scientific experts - led by French Professor Gerard Pascal - gave British beef a clean bill of health more than a week ago, saying it was as safe as any in Europe.

Even then the UK agreed to more talks to "clarify" Britain's anti-BSE measures for the French.

And EU food safety Commissioner David Byrne said he expected a response from Paris by tomorrow.

Now, in an interview with the BBC, Ms Lebranchu has dismissed the unequivocal "all-clear" for British beef from the experts and called for additional testing of British cattle for BSE.

That would amount to the kind of concession that agriculture minister Nick Brown has refused categorically to consider as the price of winning French agreement to lift the ban.

The President of the National Farmers Union, Ben Gill, rejected the damands as more delaying tactics.

Mr Gill warned of a major EU crisis beyond the beef war if the matter was not settled quickly.

He said: "I am not prepared to go on having filibustering tactics from the French with any further delays.

"British farmers have waited three and a half years - the vast bulk of that without any proper justification - to have this ban lifted."

You cannot possibly be going on with a single member state - a founding member state - ignoring whatever European law they want.

"It does not work and if there is not a resolution of this problem in the time-frame laid down there is a major constitutional and political crisis for the EU that is many layers of magnitude higher than just beef".

Ms Lebranchu today raised the issue of the "traceability" of cattle as a sticking point, but Mr Gill said that was one of the matters covered by the Date-Based Export Scheme, agreed by EU governments more than a year ago as the basis for reopening export markets for British beef.

The French minister rejected the suggestion that her government was up against a deadline, insisting: "We specifically said we did not want to give a date because that makes things difficult. Once you have set a date you are stuck with it."

She added: "I think the talks are going very well. If it takes two or three extra days because it is necessary it is better than to end up with an agreement that doesn't work.

"I think we can sort this in a matter of days, maybe weeks: I don't think it will take months".

Commission officials greeted the idea that talks are still going with surprise. The meeting last Friday of British and French agriculture civil servants to "clarify" the situation was understood to be the last, certainly at official level.

And Prime Minister Tony Blair's chat with his French counterpart Lionel Jospin on the sidelines of the rugby World Cup final in Cardiff last weekend was seen as the last word before a decision in Paris tomorrow.

Mr Byrne signalled last week that if that decision did not satisfy Brussels, he would announce his final conclusions after talks with the other Commissioners in Strasbourg next Tuesday.

That was seen as an ultimatum to France that legal action would be launched on November 16 at the latest.

But the French consumer affairs minister said today: "I think it is not very important if the European Commission takes legal action. We would rather it did not happen, of course, but what is important is to see what kind of progress we can make.

"We have to see what progress can be made with Britain on animal tracing and thus we win on the matter of public health and that is more important than to to try and avoid a legal process for the sake of it."

She said talks were going on with "plenty of goodwill" to overcome "difficulties" which still existed on UK methods of checking, testing and animal tracing.

"Then we can end the embargo. But the French Prime Minister is also saying that if there is a sticking point which directly affects public health, then we will go ahead and take the risk of having the Commission take legal action.

"We understand the economic social and political problems in Britain, but we understand the health problems which also affect Britain. So we have to make progress together."

The Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, today angrily warned France not to try to impose new conditions on the import of British beef.

His comments came as a spokesman for the Paris government declared there was no chance of France lifting its ban on British beef as the conditions it had laid down "in the name of prevention and health" had not been met.

That drew a furious retort from Mr Brown who warned that Britain would demand the European Commission take legal action if the French did not comply with EU law and lift the ban.

"It is not for the French government to set extra conditions around the date-based export scheme," he told BBC Radio 4's the World at One.

"That scheme has been agreed with the European Union. It is the law and if we cannot get agreement by negotiation we will look to the Commission to enforce the law."

The French government spokesman said: "For now, there cannot be a unilateral lifting of the embargo. The conditions set by France in the name of prevention and health are not being fulfilled."

Mr Brown said that he would be discussing the latest French statement with European food safety commissioner David Byrne later today and said the Government was prepared for a legal fight.

"If the French are saying they are unable to lift the ban following the exhaustive clarification of the technical workings of the scheme they have had from us we will have no choice but make recourse to law," he said.

"It is not my preferred option because it takes longer but I have absolutely no doubt that we will. Certainly we are prepared for that to happen and we are willing to fight our corner if we have to.

"I would have preferred to get this resolved by discussion and by sensible analysis of the situation but if we can't do it, if we have to fight our way through the courts, then so be it."


10 Nov 99 - CJD - The French stand by their ban

Derek Brown

Guardian ... Wednesday 10 November 1999


There is a widespread but wrongheaded view in this country that France's continuing ban on British beef is a crude way of protecting French farmers. Not so: the French are a nation of notorious hypochondriacs, to an extent which makes the Californians seem sane and rational. They have a morbid fascination with health scares, and are genuinely, if a tad theatrically, horrified by BSE and CJD.

French media coverage of the beef affair scarcely touches on the issues of fair trading and the niceties of European Union law. What concerns them is the deliciously terrifying possibility, however remote, that their brains may go squidgy.

That terror underlies the increasingly convoluted position of the French government. No doubt they are deeply embarrassed to find themselves drifting into a legal argy-bargy with the EU. But that embarrassment is nothing compared with the potential fury of their constituents, if they are seen to expose France to the abominable beef of Britain.

It is fairly plain that Paris urgently wants to get off the hook. Consumer affairs minister Marylise Lebranchu said today that it was "not very important" that the European Commission was preparing for legal action. Public health was "more important than to try and avoid a legal process for the sake of it". Fair enough: she is talking of additional safety checks in return for lifting the ban, and is reassuringly vague about the specifics. But the National Farmers Union in Britain is already huffing and puffing about French "filibustering", and agriculture minister Nick Brown rules out any more "concessions".

This is foolish. If Britain refuses to give some symbolic ground, there will be a protracted court battle in Luxembourg. That will damage everyone concerned, not least the British producers and exporters. What is important, however, is that any new safety measures should replace, not augment, the intolerable morass of regulation in the meat trade, which penalises consumers and farmers alike. It is surely not beyond the wit of both governments and their respective advisers to come up with a common-sense alternative to legal confrontation and jingoistic froth.

In the meantime, we must address ourselves to our national duty of eating what the French so foolishly deny themselves. Here's a helpful suggestion (vegetarians should look away now).

Buy the best steak you can afford, from a proper butcher. Melt a generous knob of decent butter in a pan. When it sizzles, slap in the steak and cook to taste, or lack of it. Take out the meat and place on a warm plate. Pour into the pan a splosh of double cream, and a splosh-and-a-half of Irish whiskey. (Bushmills is good, but we are not dogmatic.) Stir and scrape until the mixture bubbles. Pour over the steak. Eat. Go to heaven.


10 Nov 99 - CJD - France may risk legal action over beef ban

News Unlimited staff and agencies

Guardian ... Wednesday 10 November 1999


The French government has suggested it may be willing to face court action over its ban on British beef if French consumers are not given sufficient safety guarantees.

French consumer affairs minister Marylise Lebranchu shrugged off the threat of legal action and hinted at the need for concessions on beef safety in Britain, just 24 hours before Paris is expected to announce whether it will lift its ban on British imports, in compliance with a European Commission ruling.

"If there is a sticking point which directly affects public health then we will go ahead and take the risk of having the European Commission take legal action," Ms Le Branchu told BBC Radio 4's Today programme through an interpreter.

"I think it is not very important if the European Commission takes legal action, although we would rather it did not happen."

She added that France would monitor progress with Britain on animal tracing and public health. "That is more important than to try to avoid the legal process for the sake of it."

The French minister rejected the suggestion that her government was up against a deadline, insisting: "We specifically said we did not want to give a date because that makes things difficult. Once you have set a date you are stuck with it."

She added: "I think the talks are going very well. If it takes two or three extra days because it is necessary it is better than to end up with an agreement that doesn't work. I think we can sort this in a matter of days, maybe weeks: I don't think it will take months".

European Commission officials were surprised at Ms Lebranchu's assertion that talks are still going on. They said last Friday's meeting of British and French agriculture civil servants to "clarify" the situation was understood to be the last, certainly at official level.

And prime minister Tony Blair's informal chat with his French counterpart Lionel Jospin on the sidelines of the rugby World Cup final in Cardiff last weekend had been seen as the final word before a decision in Paris tomorrow.

EU food safety commissioner David Byrne signalled last week that if France's decision did not satisfy Brussels, he would announce his final conclusions after talks with the other commissioners in Strasbourg next Tuesday.

The President of the National Farmers Union, Ben Gill, rejected France's demands as further delaying tactics, warning of a major EU crisis beyond the beef war if the matter was not settled quickly.

"I am not prepared to go on having filibustering tactics from the French with any further delays," he said. "British farmers have waited three and a half years - the vast bulk of that without any proper justification - to have this ban lifted."


06 Nov 99 - CJD - Move to cut abattoir checks

Kevin Maguire

Guardian ... Saturday 6 November 1999


Government drive to cut red tape provokes storm of protest in wake of BSE and food poisoning crises

The agriculture minister, Nick Brown, was facing a fresh food safety storm last night over controversial moves to cut official inspections of abattoirs .

Leaked Whitehall minutes reveal that the scrapping of existing controls has been proposed to give slaughterhouse owners more responsibility for the enforcement of standards.

The changes, under a drive to reduce the regulatory "burden" on firms, would reduce the role of the government's own meat hygiene service and follows intensive lobbying by industry bodies.

A total of 38 recommendations from groups set up by the ministry of agriculture, fisheries and food will be considered next week by the ministry's red tape working party, chaired by former Buxted poultry managing director ROBIN POOLEY . The recommendations include making operators responsible for checks that cattle over 30 months are not sold , and ending tests for BSE in sheep .

But the demands risk triggering a new storm over food standards as Mr Brown battles to restore public confidence in British meat and persuade the French and Germans to lift the beef ban.

Union leaders last night accused the industry of using the review into the hygiene service to cut costs and get rid of independent inspection.

Dave Prentis, the deputy general secretary of Unison, which represents meat inspectors, said: "This is a recipe for disaster . Of course we want to see efficient, humane food production. But above all we want food that is safe to eat. The light touch of the Tory government led to the BSE and E. coli crises.

"We cannot allow the industry to use a perfectly legitimate review of regulation to drive down costs by skimping on inspection with large swaths of BSE control handed over to the industry.

"Independent inspection is all that stands between an infected carcass and our Sunday roast . How will such a deregulatory move reassure our consumers at home and abroad that our meat is safe to eat?"

Tony Blair has ordered ministers to cut red tape. A series of meat hygiene service review subgroups was dominated by industry figures.

Four pages of recommendations and the minutes of a Whitehall meeting last month obtained by the Guardian clearly show the producers got their way.

The proposals would introduce more spot checks and focus on assessing specific hazards after handing more responsibility to slaughterhouse owners.

Recommendation 19 for consideration by the POOLEY committee states: "The inspection system should be more risk-based and not require 100% veterinary supervision ."

Critics fear staff would be under pressure to put profits first and turn a blind eye to abuses .

The proposals were disclosed as it emerged that Britain is making behind-the-scenes moves to test cattle carcasses , intended for human consumption, for BSE.

The meat hygiene service, an arm of MAFF, was created four years ago to improve hygiene standards and weed out contaminated meat after a huge rise in food poisoning cases. The 1,200 inspectors cover 400 plants in England, Scotland and Wales.

Tensions between the independent inspectors and abattoir workers staff have been growing and the service's staff went on strike last year after complaints they were being bullied to turn a blind eye to abuses .

Eleven plants have been prosecuted in the past four years for breaking regulations which were tightened in the wake of the BSE scandal.

MR POOLEY has widespread interests in the agriculture industry and his directorships include North Country Primestock Ltd and Butchers Co Estates.

A ministry spokesman last night declined to comment on the report and recommendations but said European law would need to be altered before hygiene inspections were changed.

He said Mr Brown believed a risk assessment system could improve standards in abattoirs and was backing the reform of European-wide regulations.

"I cannot comment on it at the moment because it has still not gone to the red tape group," said the spokesman.

"After they have looked at it and considered it we will be in a position to comment."


05 Nov 99 - CJD - Move to new BSE tests

Staff Reporter

Guardian ... Friday 5 November 1999


Britain and France developing tests that could remove spectre of disease from beef

Britain is making behind-the-scenes moves to test cattle carcasses bound for human consumption for BSE.

The sudden change in tactics would enable British producers to give extra assurances that their beef was BSE-free, and in the long term remove the spectre of the disease still being present in food.

The issue of testing has been at the heart of continuing French objections to British beef, but it emerged last night that the government is working with a French government agency to develop such tests.

The cooperation may be behind the softly-softly approach of Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, who has been widely criticised for apparently ceding too much ground in the battle to make the French lift their import ban. Officials from Britain and France meet the European commission in Brussels today to discuss technical safeguards.

Britain has until very recently showed little interest in testing for BSE in dead cattle , questioning the reliability of some tests on the market for identifying hidden BSE in cows that did not display the classic "mad cow" symptoms, but pressure for a change in attitude has intensified.

The small print in the published opinion of the EC scientists who last week said Britain's beef was as safe as any in Europe called for urgent work on tests for both carcasses and live animals, although the prospects of reliable tests for the latter are further away.

Their report suggested that other countries might follow the example of Switzerland, which has already begun using a carcass test for BSE , and that such measures could help European and British authorities estimate the size of BSE infection in the UK. But they said that much more work needed to be done on carcass tests to confirm their sensitivity before they could be used as an EU-wide measure to reduce further the risk of BSE infecting humans.

They added that a very large number of British cattle used for exports would have to be tested for the tests to be genuinely informative.

Tests on carcasses would enable beef producers to give far stronger assurances that meat was safe from BSE. However, if a programme of tests revealed more extensive BSE infection in the national herd than estimated, the already fragile beef industry could collapse .

The ministry of agriculture could give few details of how its work with the French may be developed last night but stressed that it was satisfied with its present safety regime and the new research should do nothing to upset the lifting of the French or German beef ban. Today's meeting was for "clarification not negotiation".

There was no timescale for introducing tests but it was about to work closely with the Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique (CEA), which researches both BSE and the similar Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. "The sooner you can bring these tests in the better. The problem at the moment is that tests have not been reliable or strong enough."

What seems to have changed Britain's mind is EC verification during the summer of three tests for identifying BSE in cows that had already shown other signs of the disease. Although differing in exact techniques, these all use special detector proteins to spot the rogue BSE agent in nervous tissues. The EC scientists believe the tests hold promise for pre-clinical screening programmes. At present the only accepted way to confirm BSE- stricken cows is a time-consuming examination of the brain.

The Meat and Livestock Commission, which promotes British beef at home and abroad, said last night: "We have always been interested in finding a test that works certainly in live cattle." It had been concerned about the time tests on carcasses might take, as well as the extra costs.

"We think a better way at present is to remove all suspect material and all animals that may be at risk from the food chain to make it safe."

Britain already bans all cattle older than 30 months from the dinner plate, and a range of other measures was demanded by the EU before it sanctioned the end of the ban on August 1, more than three years after it was imposed in the wake of the March 1996 BSE crisis when the probable link with human deaths was revealed.

The supermarket chain Sainsbury is keeping an eye on developments to see whether it might use one of the new tests to check its meat.


05 Nov 99 - CJD - Germany Joins Talks On Beef Ban

From the Press Association

Guardian ... Friday 5 November 1999


Germany has joined the Anglo-French beef talks in Brussels amid continuing efforts to resolve the crisis over British exports.

Germany - the only EU country apart from France which has not yet lifted the beef ban - has been given "observer" status after requesting a place at the table to hear the latest assurances from UK agriculture officials.

The move follows warnings from seven of Germany's 16 regional authorities that they will not allow British beef back into their markets.

Joining the talks could help ease growing concerns in Germany, Berlin told the Commission.

So a lone German official from the country's EU delegation in Brussels joined 10 French agriculture officials to hear reassurances from a four-strong UK delegation about the safety of British beef.

The Commission itself sent 10 officials to the talks, but a spokesman said: "No outcome is expected . These officials will be reporting back to their governments."

The meeting is going on "in a good atmosphere", according to a Commission spokeswoman.

British officials insist there is no question of a "negotiation" of a beef deal, which has already been signed, sealed and delivered.

The next move must come from France, with EU food safety Commissioner David Byrne warning that the French have until November 16 to act.

He expects an initial response from Paris by next Thursday, and plans to make a final decision on legal action if necessary at a Commission meeting the following week.


04 Nov 99 - CJD - Farmers give up on 'nice Mr Brown'

By David Brown

Telegraph ... Thursday 4 November 1999


Tony Blair will receive the bloody heart of a dead ox today, courtesy of angry farmers protesting against the Government's climbdown over the illegal French ban on British beef. The blunt message is: "Don't allow concessions to the French that will rip the heart out of the British beef industry."

The demonstration is doubly symbolic. By choosing Downing Street for the emotive piece of offal, livestock farmers in the West Country no longer feel that Nick Brown, Minister of Agriculture, is in control of their fate. They have decided that protesting at the Ministry of Agriculture would be a waste of time, particularly since Mr Brown appears to be acting out a placatory scenario dictated by No 10 to enable the French to wriggle out of a mess of their own making.

If the public is baffled by Britain's capitulation to French demands for further "technical" scrutiny on five consumer safeguards on the strict Date-Based Export Scheme, livestock farmers are stunned and furious . One of the protesting West Country farmers said: "Brown just seems to be Tony Blair's puppet." Until Tuesday's meeting in Brussels brokered by David Byrne, the food safety commissioner, the Government seemed to hold all the cards. After all, on Friday the EU's scientific steering committee unanimously threw out French objections about British beef and again gave it a clean bill of health.

Farmers' leaders were overjoyed at that decision but, as it turned out, they were right to put any celebrations on hold. Past experience with French dealings had shown that something could still go wrong and it did. On the face of it, the Government needed only to have stood firm and insisted on legal action by the EU if France continued to flout an EU ruling which lifted the ban from Aug 1. But Mr Brown made further concessions and - as Tim Yeo, shadow agriculture minister, succinctly put it - appeared to "snatch defeat from the jaws of victory" .

Certainly Mr Brown cut a hapless figure in Brussels. The cruel gaze of the television cameras captured him bouncing into the meeting with the air of a man with right on his side. Then, as he shuffled from foot to foot afterwards and stumbled to find the right words to explain his dramatic turnaround, viewers were treated to the sight of a man whose own body language betrayed the extreme discomfort of his position. From a British perspective, the meeting was a public relations disaster which made the Government look helpless in the face of France's refusal to obey EU rules.

So, what is going on? Highly placed sources say that early on Monday Mr Brown and his senior officials and advisers did not want the Brussels meeting the next day to take place. Nothing much could be gained, they felt. They considered it best to rest on "our legal, scientific and moral high ground" and to let the EU sort out the French. Later the ministry was overruled by Downing Street .

But late in the evening, even as Mr Brown and his officials were preparing to go to Brussels the next morning, they had no confirmation that he would have a face-to-face meeting with Jean Glavany, the French farm minister. No direct contact had been made between the two ministers. Neither had officials of the two ministries been in touch. The arrangements were all left in the hands of the EU Commission.

Government "spin" justified Tuesday's climbdown on the grounds that the dispute with France could be ended faster if legal action was avoided. There is also a fear - confirmed to The Telegraph on Tuesday by Kalevi Hemilä, Finnish president of the EU, that the decision to allow British beef exports again could unravel if it was allowed to return to the political forum of the council.

Already, the high-profile dispute with France is making consumers throughout Europe nervous again about British beef. Mr Brown is confident that the French embargo can be lifted "within days" after British, French and EU officials examine the five "technical" points. But it is a high-risk strategy and farmers know it. If France fails yet again to lift its ban next week, it will strengthen the hand of those German states blocking imports of British beef.

Another thumbs down next week would be a devastating blow to Mr Brown whose stock is at its lowest ebb since he became minister. Farmers have been remarkably kind to him so far. But they will not be so ready to forgive failure against the French. Even if his strategy pays off next week and France accepts British beef, he may not exactly be seen as a hero. But he can be sure of one thing: his credibility in the farming industry is on the line. Failure will turn Mr Nice Guy into a villain.


04 Nov 99 - CJD - France has to lift beef ban within two weeks

By George Jones, David Brown and Andrew Gimson in Berlin

Telegraph ... Thursday 4 November 1999


Brussels set a two week deadline for France to lift the ban on British beef yesterday amid growing concern that the deal to allow the resumption of UK meat exports could unravel across Europe. Germany last night signalled that it wanted to reopen talks about the safety of British beef and the continuing dispute is making other European Union consumers nervous. The Berlin government said it would maintain the ban on British beef until German consumers were convinced that the meat was safe.

The German move followed the surprise decision by Nick Brown, the agriculture minister, to yield to French demands that British beef should be subject to further safety checks. Mr Brown spent yesterday denying that he had climbed down and given the French government further scope to delay the lifting of the ban. He claimed that the press had misunderstood the outcome of his meeting in Brussels on Tuesday with Jean Glavany, French minister of agriculture.

Mr Brown denied that he had given any new concessions to the French, despite accepting that any EU decision to prosecute France for failing to lift its unilateral ban should wait until five points raised by Paris about British beef safeguards are thrashed out in Brussels tomorrow. He said: "These are not concessions. These are points of clarification."

He rebuffed suggestions that the French were stalling for trade reasons and said he was satisfied that Mr Glavany's over-riding concern was for "public safety". Mr Brown is believed to have been reluctant to take part in the Brussels talks because he felt they would achieve very little. But Downing Street was keen that they went ahead to allow France a face-saving way of lifting the ban.

But it was confirmed in Brussels that the new Anglo-French talks would include two key issues not covered by the original European Commission agreement last August to lift the export ban. They are the way the British authorities test animals for BSE, and the way beef is labelled . On the first point, the French want to extend the testing of animal carcasses to "pre-clinical" tests on live animals that have not yet shown any of the physical signs of the disease.

Downing Street insisted that agreeing to further talks would produce results more quickly than if Britain demanded that the European Commission take France to the European Court. Ministers fear that starting court action might prove initially popular in Britain but could result in the lifting of the ban being delayed for years, with other EU countries using it as an excuse to refuse British beef.

But it is a huge gamble for the Government. If France uses the talks as an excuse for further delay, the Government will face huge embarrassment and will be seen to have lost the initiative gained from last Friday's ruling by EU scientists endorsing British beef.

In Brussels yesterday, David Byrne, the European Commissioner, said he expected the French government to respond by Thursday of next week following tomorrow's meeting of British and French officials to discuss the "technical implementation" of lifting the ban. If there was still no clear announcement that France was ending the embargo, Mr Byrne said he would deliver his final conclusions when the commission meets in Strasbourg on Nov 16. At that point, a decision could be taken to to prosecute the French government.


04 Nov 99 - CJD - France wants to end embargo as soon as possible, says minister

By Patrick Bishop

Telegraph ... Thursday 4 November 1999


France wants to end the embargo on British beef as quickly as possible, the French agriculture minister said yesterday, but he declined to give any firm date for a resumption of imports.

Jean Glavany said: "France didn't want this crisis, takes no pleasure in the crisis and is looking to get out of it as quickly as possible." He blamed the British media for whipping up an "anti-French fury" and said: "For me, if we could lift the embargo tomorrow, that would be very good. France doesn't want to look like a bad friend to the United Kingdom or to Europe. Our concern is solely about public health. What we are searching for is a solution which is the most intelligent and efficient possible for the safety of consumers. It's best if we do that as quickly as possible. But I'm not watching the clock."

France has eagerly seized the olive branch extended by Britain at a meeting in Brussels on Tuesday after European scientific experts decided unanimously last week that there was no justification for its continued refusal. Britain agreed to further safety checks in five areas demanded by the French which will be worked out at a meeting of British, French and EU experts in Brussels tomorrow.

M Glavany said: "This is what should have done at the start and we could have avoided this crisis. Now I'm delighted that we are in a frame of mind where we are working together instead of in a conflict which should never have taken place."

Unlike Mr Brown, who said he hoped that the embargo would be lifted "within a matter of days" of the experts' meeting, M Glavany was vague about when France might act: "The experts are going to explore these five points to know how we can move on with confidence, and then we'll find an end to it. In the course of next week or the start of the week after, then we'll decide."

M Glavany maintained that France was motivated only by public health considerations and had no desire to antagonise the United Kingdom or to protect French farmers: "This is not so much about the United Kingdom, no matter how much it might seem it. It also concerns France and the other countries of Europe who tell us they have no need for tests or controls because they know they don't have BSE at home."

M Glavany made clear that France reserved the right to demand new checks if French scientists, such as the French Agency for Food Safety and Health, which first sounded the alarm against British beef, decide there is a new risk: "We know very little about this illness. Each time our knowledge takes a step forward, that calls into question earlier decisions. What I said to Nick Brown and David Byrne [the EU food safety commissioner] was that, even if we agree together on a safety mechanism and we lift the embargo in 15 days, three weeks, 10 days, a week, perhaps in six months we will be obliged to review the arrangement because there are discoveries in the United States, Germany, England or in France which will have altered our knowledge of the disease. Politicians have to be adaptable. There's no eternal truth in matters of science."

M Glavany knew the crisis had been a "drama" for Britain: "Even though I know all the efforts you made, the considerable sums you had to pay, the 47 deaths you had, at the same time, with a disease that can take 10, 20 years to incubate, we have to act forcefully because I will tell you the price. There are experts who do not brush aside the possibility of 100,000 dead in 20 years. You cannot take these things lightly."


04 Nov 99 - CJD French given two weeks to accept UK beef imports

Stephen Bates in Brussels and Michael White

Guardian ... Thursday 4 November 1999


Whitehall breathed a collective sigh of relief last night after the European commission gave the French government two weeks to fall into line with other EU member states and accept British beef imports - or face court action to enforce compliance with scientific advice that the meat is safe.

The move helped to ease the pressure on the agriculture minister, Nick Brown, who was widely portrayed as staging a climbdown over the beef ban by agreeing to French demands for further tests.

The two-week deadline to save French face over the dispute is the alternative to a commission-initiated legal action against France which could take two years.

"If we can resolve this between ourselves it is much better than going to law," Mr Brown said last night.

But a fresh problem emerged from Germany where seven of the 16 regional governments are also resisting British beef . Downing Street remains confident that Berlin will bring them into line.

The latest hold-up in a resumption of British beef exports to France following French demands for further assurances about the technical safeguards applying to meat exports provoked fury in Britain and exasperation at the commission.

Paris purports to see it as a real negotiation, London as a mere clarification of details. In the day's damage-limitation exercise among officials in London and Brussels Mr Brown toured radio and TV studios to stress there was no question of reconsidering the date-based export scheme under which the meat has already been deemed safe for sale abroad.

Officials were alarmed at the media's interpretation of the outcome of Tuesday's meeting at the commission between Mr Brown and his French counterpart, Jean Glavany, who agreed to new discussions tomorrow on five aspects of the regulations.

Mr Brown called the talks "rational and constructive". The EU food safety commissioner, David Byrne, told the European parliament that he was giving the French until November 16 to accept EU regulations. If they do not, the commission will start legal proceedings.

Mr Byrne told MEPs: "It is a clear implication of these discussions that the ban will be lifted. There is no question of rewriting the date-based export scheme. It does not need to be changed."

In contrast to last week's jibes at "spineless" Labour ministers, William Hague, the Conservative leader, failed to raise the issue with Tony Blair at question time yesterday.


04 Nov 99 - CJD - Scientists devise BSE test

From Roger Boyes in Berlin

Times ... Thursday 4 November 1999


German scientists yesterday claimed to have made a breakthrough in the diagnosis of "mad cow" disease that could remove some of the disagreement from cross-Channel arguments about the health of British cattle.

Professor Werner Müller, a molecular biologist at Mainz University, said his institute had come up with a way of testing for BSE by extracting about 20 microlitres of brain fluid from a suspect cow. The process allows veterinarians to establish quickly and without slaughtering the cow whether it is infected.

One of the most emotive aspects of the BSE dispute has been the wholesale slaughter of herds because of the discovery of a single suspect animal. The new process, which will be applied with the help of a special diagnostic kit, is the result of 21/2 years of research by Professor Müller and Dr Heinz Christoph Schröder in a high-security laboratory at the Institute for Physiological Chemistry at Mainz University. They have taken out national and international patents.

The researchers, quoted by the Allgemeine Zeitung yesterday, are satisfied that their early warning system works on people and animals. Tests showed that a small amount of brain fluid was enough to discover the presence of a special protein. In high quantities, this protein is a sure indicator of the presence of BSE or, in the case of humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The pair have established a company, Repair Genics, to market the diagnostic sets.