Document Directory

31 Jan 98 - New move to crack down on beef rebels
31 Jan 98 - Butchers warned for flaunting ban
30 Jan 98 - Now Jack 'Boots' threatens butchers
29 Jan 98 - CS gas and batons used on protesting farmers
28 Jan 98 - BSE Inquiry a charade
28 Jan 98 - BSE inquiry will call ex-ministers to explain actions
28 Jan 98 - BSE inquiry to summon ex-ministers and aides
27 Jan 98 - The Market: BSE test talk fails to lift Sainsbury
27 Jan 98 - BSE: Brussels to clarify beef risk rules
26 Jan 98 - Imported cattle threaten fight against BSE
22 Jan 98 - UK CJD Link To 100 Hong Kong Patients
20 Jan 98 - Ireland: Supermarket chain sells beef tested for BSE
17 Jan 98 - Beef row: Consumer seen as victor
16 Jan 98 - Import ban: EU and US claim beef victory
15 Jan 98 - Food agency will hit shop prices
13 Jan 98 - Northern Ireland: Brussels likely to lift export ban on beef from province
08 Jan 98 - An issue of confidence
07 Jan 98 - London mother dies from CJD
07 Jan 98 - EU: Farm commissioner in talks over meat safety dispute
06 Jan 98 - Oprah Winfrey: Chat show host roasted over BSE
05 Jan 98 - More feared at risk of BSE
05 Jan 98 - Farmers to defy ban with a feast of oxtail
04 Jan 98 - BSE - More risk from cow brains



31 Jan 98 - New move to crack down on beef rebels

by Michael Hornsby

Times ... Saturday 31 January 1998


The Government is expected to issue new guidelines on the beef-on-the-bone ban on Monday in response to complaints from health officials that the law is unworkable. These are likely to make it illegal merely to display cuts such as T-bone steak, oxtail or rib of beef .

Environmental health officers said yesterday they had little idea whether the ban was being observed because they lacked the manpower to keep a check on every outlet. Despite open revolt by some butchers and restaurateurs, no one has been prosecuted since the ban came into force on December 16.

Jim Sutherland, a Scottish hotelier, was reported by health officers and faces possible prosecution after he held a "prohibition party" in late December, but no further action has been taken.

Elsewhere there has been a distinct reluctance to enforce the law . Simon Williams, of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, said enforcement posed a real problem because the regulations allowed butchers and caterers to have beef on the bone on their premises.

Farm incomes fell by 35 per cent last year, according to Ministry of Agriculture figures.


31 Jan 98 - Butchers warned for flaunting ban

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Saturday 31 January 1998


Butchers will be prosecuted if they continue to break the law by selling T-bone steaks, oxtails and other cuts of beef on the bone , Jack Cunningham, the Minister of Agriculture, warned yesterday. "People who boast about putting themselves above the law have to face the consequences ," he said.

He dismissed the stand being made by numerous butchers who have continued to sell beef on the bone despite the Government's ban which was implemented on Dec 16.

Under the ban, designed to protect consumers from the remote risk of contracting BSE from tissue attached to the bones, meat traders risk heavy fines and up to two years in jail if convicted of selling beef on the bone to the public.

Dismissing complaints by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Officers that the order banning beef bones was badly drafted and practically unforceable, Mr Cunningham told the Today programme on Radio 4 that very few butchers were flaunting the rules.

He also said it was a "myth" that most of the public was opposed to the ban - a view supported by the Meat and Livestock Commission which found in a recent survey that consumers marginally supported the Government action.

But Michael Jack, shadow minister of agriculture, said: "Jack Cunningham has managed to introduce a piece of legislation which is unworkable, unnecessary and unwanted."

The public wanted the right to choose for themselves whether to eat beef on the bone and did not need Mr Cunningham to act as a "nanny". He said: "I am certainly not recommending that people break the law.... But it is clear from what the environmental health officers have said that the order is a recipe for confusion and inconsistency ."

Government figures showed yesterday that the incomes of beef and sheep farmers last year dropped further than even their own leaders feared in the wake of the beef crisis and due to the strength of the pound.

The hardest hit were beef and sheep farmers in the lowlands who suffered a 65 per cent drop in incomes, in real terms adjusted for inflation. Livestock farmers in less favoured areas experienced a 44 per cent drop.


30 Jan 98 - Now Jack 'Boots' threatens butchers

by CHARLES REISS, Political Editor

Evening Standard ... Friday 30 January 1998


Cunningham says shops defying beef ban will face full rigour of the law

Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham stamped a heavy foot today at the butchers defiantly selling beef on the bone - and told them they will face the full rigour of the law.

His stern warning put the Government on a direct confrontation course with the growing number of butchers who are offering T-bone steaks, oxtail and other cuts to their customers despite the ban imposed a few weeks ago. They now face up to two years in jail and unlimited fines .

Mr Cunningham said that the overwhelming majority of butchers, and all supermarkets, were already obeying the ban "as are the people generally". But he went on: "Those who are not will face the consequences.

"It's a matter for local authority officers to take action and that's what I expect will happen." The minister shrugged aside complaints from environmental health officers that the law was ill-drafted and effectively unworkable.

He claimed that only "one or two butchers" were continuing to sell beef on the bone, though a recent snapshot survey by the Evening Standard in London showed up to one in five were prepared to sell meat on the bone .

Mr Cunningham had an even starker message for butchers like Paul Robinson of Hampshire who have declared that they will continue to sell the banned cuts. "People who boast about putting themselves above the law have to face the consequences, whether they are butchers or anyone else," Mr Cunningham thundered.

Questioned on the Today programme, he said the ban could eventually be lifted but only if BSE had vanished completely from Britain.

He dismissed as a "myth" the idea that the public was up in arms over the ban. His responsibility, he declared, was: "To ensure there is no BSE infectivity at all in the human food chain." Today David Jago, owner of Jago's butchers in Chelsea, said most people in the trade were getting round the law by serving beef on the bone to trusted customers.

"Most beef is still being sold on the bone," he said. "They are still selling oxtail at Smithfield market. If people still want it they can get hold of it. "He added: "It's ridiculous to jail the butchers. If the customers still want it, it should be left to them to decide.

"We are told the effects of smoking and people can decide for themselves but the Government won't stop that because there's too much money coming from it."

An Islington butcher, who asked not to be named, confirmed that regular customers who asked for the meat could buy it.

"You can get coke, heroin and crack within 40 yards of my business, and yet they are going to jail me for selling beef on the bone? It's ridiculous ."

Peter Scott, of the National Federation of Fresh Meat Wholesalers, said: "You need to ensure public safety but the way the minister has gone about matters makes it quite unenforceable."

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Government ministers have privately recognised for weeks that the ban on the sale of beef on the bone was a self-inflicted disaster . Agriculture Minister Jack "boots" Cunningham grossly over-reacted to a statistically negligible threat to public health. This country's meat industry and consumers have paid the price of his folly.

But now we learn that even as he disappears into the hole he has dug for himself, Mr Cunningham is still shovelling away. On the radio today, he threatened butchers who sell beef on the bone - as many are happily still doing - with the full rigour of the law. Will this silly man never learn? The first butcher led in chains into the dock to appease the Agriculture Minister's arrogance will be a popular hero.

During the Second World War, it was often said that the easiest way to cut captured German officers down to size when they strutted into prisoner-of-war camps was to pull off their jackboots. Mr Blair should remove Mr Cunningham's before he wrecks much more than the British family joint.


29 Jan 98 - CS gas and batons used on protesting farmers

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 29 January 1998


Police used CS gas, riot batons and dogs to control farmers laying siege to the ferry terminal at Holyhead, Anglesey, yesterday in protest against Irish beef imports.

Nineteen officers were injured in the ugliest scenes so far in the campaign by farmers to stop cheaper imported meat capturing a growing share of beef sales in Britain while their own exports are banned worldwide by the European Union.

North Wales police called in reinforcements from Cheshire in the operation to keep the port open. One officer was detained with serious chest injuries in hospital at Bangor.

Pc Paul Gardner, a father of two who is in his 20s, was undergoing hospital tests yesterday. Colleagues said his condition was "causing concern".

Violence flared in the early hours at the end of a six-hour protest as demonstrators tried to prevent Irish lorries from leaving the port. Policemen were punched and kicked.

North Wales police said: "In response to the violence offered by the farmers the police had no alternative but to draw their batons in self-defence and use CS spray in accordance with authorised training techniques.

"No arrests were made as it was impracticable to do so because of the sheer numbers involved and the violence shown by the protesters."

The campaign against imported meat was also stepped up at Fishguard, west Wales, where 300 farmers held a peaceful protest. Six Irish lorries were eventually allowed through after drivers refused to turn back.

The violence was condemned as unacceptable by the Government and by the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales, which is worried that beef producers run the risk of losing public sympathy.

John Tecwyn Owen, deputy chief constable of north Wales, said the attacks on his officers were "disgraceful" and warned organisers that they must take responsibility for the conduct of protesters.

A police spokesman said: "Up to now the majority of farmers have had a responsible attitude. But last night there was a distinctive change of mood. It became apparent that some of them were intent on seeking a confrontation."

Bob Parry, president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, said: "We have worked hard to build up public support for our cause. We don't want to lose it. Farmers protesting must keep within the law."


28 Jan 98 - BSE Inquiry a charade

UK Correspondent

Comment ... Wednesday 28 January 1998


The recently announced enquiry into the origins of the BSE fiasco has been emasculated by MAFF influence and is merely a sop to attempt to allay public outrage. The enquiry:

- has no statutory powers of subpoena and cannot force witnesses to attend

- cannot force witnesses to give evidence under oath

- offers no protection for witnesses against legal action by those they criticise

- offers no protection for witnesses from subsequent victimisation by their employers

In the above circumstances it is highly unlikely that the truth will emerge. Unfortunately the previous administration (the current opposition) has much to hide and is unlikely to challenge the terms under which the enquiry is operating.

Despite widespread criticism of MAFF over BSE, the Department has emerged virtually unscathed. The recently announced Food Safety Agency is 90% staffed by MAFF and MAFF has retained control of the key SEAC committee which controls BSE issues and the MHS (Meat Hygiene Service) which regulates abatoirs. Regrettably, MAFF and agro-industry interests will continue to take precedence over food safety.


28 Jan 98 - BSE inquiry will call ex-ministers to explain actions

By Michael Hornsby, Agriculture Correspondent

Times ... Wednesday 28 January 1998


Former government ministers will be expected to appear before the inquiry into "mad cow" disease to justify their handling of the epidemic and the action they took to protect public health.

Civil servants will also be called to give evidence; they have been assured that they will be able to speak frankly without fear that what they say might be used against them. Sir Nicholas Phillips, the Lord Justice of Appeal who is chairing the inquiry, said: "I have been authorised by the head of the Civil Service to say that no evidence or other assistance given by any civil servant will be used as the basis for any disciplinary proceeeding against him or her."

Speaking at the opening of the inquiry, Sir Nicholas, pictured, said he was determined that the investigation should look at "any part of the story that led to the emergence" of BSE, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and the new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, linked to eating infected beef.

"I hope this inquiry will reveal the events and decisions which led to the spread of these diseases," he said. "The inquiry wishes to understand the facts, to establish whether the action that was taken was adequate, and to see what lessons can be learnt."

Although the inquiry had no statutory powers of subpoena , and could not force people to give evidence under oath , Sir Nicholas said he did not think that would diminish the protection afforded to witnesses or their willingness to testify. "We have heard that ministers are prepared to give evidence and we have been promised the fullest support for our inquiry. I anticipate that anyone who is asked to give evidence will be happy to do so."

He concluded: "Let me make it plain that this inquiry cannot definitively pronounce on the cause of BSE. Scientists are still working on that question. Our terms of reference require us to review the scientific evidence available during the relevant period and the adequacy of the response to that evidence."

Many of the relatives of the 23 victims of new-variant CJD attended the preliminary hearing, which was held in Central Hall, Westminster. David Churchill, whose teenage son, Stephen, was the first person to die of the new disease in May, 1995, said: "We are satisfied that, after a long, hard fight over the past 2 1/2 years, this inquiry has at last got under way. It was a bold, brave decision by the Government."

Mr Churchill, who chairs the Human BSE Foundation, which was set up to represent the affected families, said: "We are seeking the truth. As families, and as a nation, we need to know why we are in this situation, what advice was given and what action was taken."

Roger Tomkins, whose 24-year-old daughter, Clare, was found to be suffering from the disease last year, said: "My daughter is dying. I want some good to come out of it. This disease is not due to natural causes. I believe what this inquiry will uncover is that unnecessarily bad decisions were made which led to this disaster."

The inquiry will begin hearings in earnest in March in Hercules House, near Waterloo Station. Apart from a break in August, it will sit from 9.15am to 1.15 pm each day from Monday to Friday and is expected to report to the Government by the end of the year.

Sir Nicholas will have the support of two assessors, Malcolm Ferguson-Smith, Professor of Pathology and Professorial Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, who is an expert on human genetics, and June Bridgeman, a former deputy chairman of the Equal Opportunities Commission.

* Organisations or individuals wishing to give evidence to the inquiry should write to The Secretary, the BSE Inquiry, PO Box 163, London SE99 7UZ, or telephone 0845 602 1013 (local call rates).


28 Jan 98 - BSE inquiry to summon ex-ministers and aides

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Wednesday 28 January 1998


Former ministers and their civil servants will be called to account on mad cow disease and the beef crisis by a wide-ranging public inquiry set in motion by the Government yesterday.

Lord Justice Phillips, who heads the inquiry team, said civil servants had been given guarantees that they would not be disciplined for speaking frankly about the causes and background of "a disaster with tragic consequences". It is linked to 23 deaths and has cost 3.5 billion in emergency aid alone.

He said that scientists and others in private industry and commerce who also felt like "blowing the whistle " could use civil law to protect themselves against "victimisation". He said: "The primary object of this inquiry is not to attribute blame for what occurred, but to identify what went wrong and why, and to see what lessons can be learned."

The inquiry will review the emergence of BSE, which has killed more than 170,000 cattle in Britain since 1986, and responses to it until it was officially linked with the new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in young people on March 20, 1986.

The announcement of this newly-recognised strain of CJD, which has killed 23 people, sparked off the beef crisis and the EU ban on worldwide sales. The inquiry will dwell on Government advice that BSE was caused after cattle were fed on animal protein derived from sheep and cattle and that changes to the rendering system may have resulted in this offal passing on infection.

Lord Justice Phillips said: "Let me make it plain, however, that this inquiry cannot definitively pronounce on the cause of BSE. Scientists are still working on that question." He said he did not expect prosecutions to follow from the inquiry but, while stressing that the primary object "was not to find fault", he accepted that individuals may be criticised.

He said: "Any individual who has reason to anticipate significant personal criticism is likely to have a strong case for legal representation... Where we agree that someone should be legally represented, and it seems to us unreasonable for that person to have to pay for a lawyer, then we shall recommend that reasonable costs are met out of public funds."

The inquiry has no statutory powers to force witnesses to attend , though he did not expect any to refuse. There will be no requirement to give evidence under oath . Hearings will begin in March, with a report to the Government by December.


27 Jan 98 - The Market: BSE test talk fails to lift Sainsbury

By Jan Eakin

Telegraph ... Tuesday 27 January 1998


News that supermarket giant J Sainsbury is holding discussions with Irish-based Enfer Scientific over the use of a BSE test licensed from Proteus International did little to help either group's share price yesterday, despite dealers' excitement at the development. Sainsbury confirmed that it is considering using the test and a spokesman said: "We feel this could be a very positive move and could help reassure our customers, but first we need to ensure the test's 100pc accuracy."

Yesterday the supermarket group slipped 4.5 to 505.5p on profit-taking after its recent strong run. Proteus firmed 1.5 to 85p although last week the shares gained more than 20p after it announced that the Irish retailer Supervalu is using Enfer's beef test. One trader said: "The shares ran ahead on the news last week but we don't think it will be long before they're racing away again."

The test, recently approved by Ireland's food and agriculture minister, costs 20 for each carcass of which Proteus receives 2 and reports suggest that the earnings could be substantial - there are 1.8m carcasses a year in Ireland, 4m in the UK and roughly 30m throughout Europe. According to a report from Supervalu, the test will add 5p to each pound of meat compared with non-tested meat.


27 Jan 98 - BSE: Brussels to clarify beef risk rules

By Daniel Dombey in Brussels

Financial Times ... Tuesday 27 January 1998


The European Commission is trying to establish clearer rules to identify those countries most at risk from BSE, in a move officials hope may calm high-profile trade disputes.

The Commission is set to ask both member states and third countries for more information to enable it to make a more accurate calculation of the risk of BSE or "mad cow" disease. The steps come amid continuing controversy over European Union policy on BSE.

"If different countries and different industries know what the rules are, then everyone has a clearer understanding of where they stand," said a Commission official.

The UK is attempting to convince the EU to allow it to resume beef exports from Northern Ireland and, at a later date, exports of young cattle whose movements have been registered from throughout Britain.

Meanwhile, the US argues that Commission legislation which could endanger more than $4bn of pharmaceutical imports to the EU because the alleged BSE risk is misconceived, since the country has never had a registered case.

Because the incubation period for BSE can be very long, the Commission has not only taken into account outbreaks when judging the risk of the disease in recent years, but factors such as feeding and slaughtering practices as well.

As a result, Commission scientists have ruled the US is a "low risk" region. This is an inferior classification to Australia and New Zealand which have, respectively, "very low risk" and "negligible risk".

The method of calculation were worked out by a scientific committee for the Commission, whose results were announced yesterday.


26 Jan 98 - Imported cattle threaten fight against BSE

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Monday 26 January 1998


Cattle infected with BSE that have been imported from other EU countries have undermined Britain's efforts to salvage its global export markets for beef and eradicate mad cow disease, vets said yesterday .

About a dozen infected cows imported from Italy, Belgium, France and Holland over the past 10 years have been slaughtered. But thousands of cattle of uncertain history are still being imported, some from Germany and the Republic of Ireland , which have both suffered outbreaks of BSE .

The British Cattle Veterinary Society - a branch of the British Veterinary Association - called for tighter Government controls on cows imported for breeding. There was no way of knowing whether these animals were infected before or after arriving in Britain.

Special efforts must be made to trace them and make sure that they do not enter the human food chain. Otherwise, controls on British-bred and reared livestock were meaningless. About 36,000 cows have been imported in the past five years to supply farmers who cannot find suitable replacements here because of the precautionary slaughter of native cattle. About 40,000 were killed to eliminate any that may have been in contact with the contaminated food blamed for causing BSE.

All supplies of this food were cleared from farms in the United Kingdom by Aug 1, 1996. More than 6,000 cattle were imported between August and December last year - but vets said yesterday there was no guarantee that they had not been exposed to the same sort of food.

They also warned, in a letter to The Veterinary Record, that these cattle could jeopardise British efforts to establish Aug 1 1996 as a "cut-off date" by which all beef from animals born after that date is deemed clear of BSE. This is seen as the best criterion for persuading other countries that beef exported from Britain is safe. Imported animals born after that date must be identified and their movements monitored, the vets say.

Bob Moore, president of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, said: "We are trying to avoid a problem down the line when we could have an unexpected outbreak of BSE despite our controls, which are the tightest in the world. We would be blamed for it even though the cause lay elsewhere. We have no way of knowing whether these imported cattle have been exposed to the suspect food."

The National Farmers' Union of England and Wales said: "We have always urged the same level of controls in all member states. It is in everyone's interests." The Ministry of Agriculture confirmed that 12 cattle, born overseas, had since died of BSE. It said: "All cattle in this country are now monitored whether they were born here or not."

The European Union is to launch a 1 million advertising campaign next month to urge consumers in Britain to eat more beef. The EU still refuses to accept that British beef is safe enough to sell to consumers in other countries


22 Jan 98 - UK CJD Link To 100 Hong Kong Patients

Staff Reporter

PA News ... Thursday 22 Jan 98


More than 100 patients in Hong Kong have been treated with a blood product traced to a British victim of human "mad cow disease", it was disclosed.

About a third of the 108 patients at six Hong Kong hospitals have been recalled for tests and counselling , local radio reported.

But Ko Wing-man, deputy director of the hospital authority, and the National Blood Authority in Britain both stressed that the chance of any harm coming to the patients was extremely remote.


20 Jan 98 - Ireland: Supermarket chain sells beef tested for BSE

By Clive Cookson, Science Editor

Finanial Times ... Tuesday 20 January 1998


An Irish supermarket chain yesterday put on sale what it said was the first beef in the world tested for BSE, or mad cow disease.

It uses diagnostic technology from Proteus International, a UK biotechnology company whose shares closed 23p up at 80p in London.

SuperValu Supermarkets, part of the privately owned Musgrave Group, said all the beef going into its 168 shops throughout Ireland would be tested for prions - the infectious agents that cause BSE in cattle and its human version, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

The testing is carried out by Enfer Scientific, another private Irish company which has an exclusive worldwide licence from Proteus for the BSE diagnostic technology.

Enfer performs the tests at its laboratory in Newbridge outside Dublin, at a cost of I22.50 (20) per carcass. Proteus receives a 10 per cent royalty.

According to Proteus, BSE testing adds 4p to 5p per pound to the cost of putting meat into the shops. But SuperValu said it would absorb this without increasing beef prices "for the foreseeable future". The chain sells I25m worth of Irish beef a year.

David Gration, Proteus chairman, said: "We hope this is the first step in the widespread acceptance of this test, which I am sure would be welcomed by consumers everywhere."

But its commercialisation is in the hands of Enfer. The Irish testing company said it had received several approaches from the UK and elsewhere in the Europe, but it wanted to make sure the procedure was working smoothly with SuperValu before extending it to other retail chains or meat companies.

The test has been validated independently by Ireland's Department of Agriculture veterinary research laboratory at Abbotstown .


17 Jan 98 - Beef row: Consumer seen as victor

By Daniel Dombey in Brussels and Frances Williams in Geneva

Financial Times ... Saturday 17 January 1998


The European Commission yesterday hailed a ruling on hormone-treated beef as a "victory for the consumer", even though the decision leaves it unclear whether the European Union will be able to continue indefinitely its ban on imports of the meat from the US and Canada.

The ruling, issued yesterday by the World Trade Organisation's appellate body, found the EU ban was in breach of international trade rules. But it ruled in favour of the EU on several points and EU officials say they will be able to keep the ban if they provide an adequate assessment of the risks that the beef may pose to human health.

The ruling is the latest attempt to settle a dispute that has run for more than nine years and which the US says has cost it $200m-$250m a year in lost export revenue.

Rita Hayes, US ambassador to the WTO in Geneva, called for the ban to be lifted within the 15 month adjustment period the WTO normally allows. She noted that two comprehensive studies, including one by the EU itself, had found no risk attached to beef from hormone-treated animals. "There is no wiggle room here," she said.

The WTO ruling overturned an earlier panel on two counts. It said the EU was not necessarily inconsistent in allowing hormones into other parts of the food chain while banning the hormone-treated beef . It added that the EU would be allowed to impose tougher food standards than the corresponding international codes if its standards were scientifically based, a ruling that the Commission was quick to praise.

A WTO source had previously doubted whether the EU would be able to provide convincing evidence of the beef's alleged effect on health, since the earlier studies provided by the EU had focused on the hormones used rather than the beef itself.

But the ruling indicated that the conditions for a risk assessment could be met if toxins were found, even if they were only present in small quantities. "One molecule is enough," said an EU official.

The EU would also be justified in banning beef if the hormones were not administered in accordance with good animal husbandry.


16 Jan 98 - Import ban: EU and US claim beef victory

Staff Reporter

Financial Times ... Friday 16 January 1998


WTO ruling tempered by doubt over Europe retaining meat import ban, reports Daniel Dombey in Brussels

The European Union and the US yesterday both claimed partial victory in their long-running dispute over hormone-treated beef.

But the appeal ruling, which is due to be announced today by the World Trade Organisation, leaves doubt over whether Europe will be able to retain its current meat import ban.

Sources close to the WTO doubted the EU would be able to provide enough evidence of the beef's impact on human health to maintain the import ban for longer than an adjustment period of 15 months.

"We will not react until tomorrow. But according to our information, the result is not looking too bad for the EU," said a European Commission spokesman.

The case is an important test of the WTO's ability to settle the long-running case when many of its procedures - which largely rely on consensus - have only been established for a short time.

The US has claimed losses of $200m a year because of the ban, which it regards as a protectionist rather than a health-oriented measure. A WTO panel ruled in August 1997 that the ban broke WTO agreements.

According to draft version of the ruling, the WTO's appeal court ruled that the EU could keep the ban in place while it put together a systematic scientific case. The draft does not impose any fines on the EU, although fines and countervailing duties might still be possible if the EU failed to conform to the ruling.

The ruling is also likely to say that Europe is within its rights to impose a stricter code of food safety than international standards, as long as it is backed by scientific evidence.

In addition, it establishes that the EU is not inconsistent in banning hormone treated meat and allowing other hormone treated substances into the food chain, such as antibiotics for pigs.

However, the draft ruling makes clear that the EU failed to provide an adequate risk analysis of the meat's effects on health and will have to submit fresh evidence if it is to maintain the ban.

The beef-hormone dispute is the first real test of health standards in food safety under the current regime.

A WTO source said that there was no established procedure to decide the case if a substantial minority of scientists found some kind of risk associated with the meat.

"The judgment has not fined us, not asked us to lift this ban, just asked us to provide a risk assessment, which we will do," said an EU official.


15 Jan 98 - Food agency will hit shop prices

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Thursday 15 January 1998


The Government set out its proposals for an independent Food Standards Agency to restore consumer confidence in food yesterday.

Proposals in a government White Paper - The Food Standards Agency: A Force for Change - show that the agency will have sweeping powers to secure food safety in the aftermath of the beef crisis and the E coli epidemic in Scotland, which killed 20 people.

Under the plans, the food industry will have to pay most of the costs of running the agency - estimated at 100 million a year.

About 35 million will be recovered from existing charges on the industry, with plans to raise a further 60 million a year by some form of licensing scheme on 600,000 food premises in the UK. The charges average about 100 a year, but could be far higher, critics say. Food and farming industry leaders warned last night that the scheme would force up food prices in shops and supermarkets.

Michael Mackenzie, director-general of the Food and Drink Federation, said: "The weekly shopping bill will be increased due to this proposed tax on food. In addition, this 'food poll tax' will unfairly disadvantage the UK food and drink manufacturing industry in terms of competition and on the supermarket shelves. Ultimately, it will put jobs at risk."

But Jack Cunningham, Minister of Agriculture, who is leading the Government drive to establish the agency, said the scheme would fundamentally change food safety measures in the UK.

"The new agency will be independent of government, the food industry and any other food-producer interests and will play a major part in building consumer confidence in food safety. The protection of public health is at the top of its priorities," he said.

The food agency will be run by an executive department of civil servants in London and will be overseen by a specially-appointed Food Standards Commission.

The introduction of the agency will reduce the powers of the Ministry of Agriculture and several hundred staff have been seconded from Maff to run it. Once established, the Department of Health will become its sponsoring department.

Frank Dobson, Health Secretary, said: "The agency is a major step forward for public health. For the first time Britain will have an organisation whose only task is to set high food standards."

The agency will be able to recommend extra public health and food safety controls on farms and will also license fresh-meat plants and take responsibility for measures to prevent BSE passing to consumers.

The Meat Hygiene Service will come under its powers and it will share supervision with Maff and the Department of Health for SEAC - the independent Spongiform Encaphalopathies Committee, whose decisions drive government policy on BSE controls. (UK Correspondents Note: MAFF have co-control of SEAC and the MHS and provide 90% of the staff for the new body. MAFF have effectively retained control of food safety with a nominal Department of Health involvement as a sop to public opinion)

The agency will support the work of local authorities and health authorities, while letting local authorities retain responsibility for the day-to-day enforcement of food law.

The food and farming industries gave a general welcome to the plans for an agency, but criticised much of the detail. Sir David Naish, president of the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales, welcomed the thrust of the new agency, but said: "We strongly oppose charges for licensing food premises. The Food Standards Agency should not jeopardise its independence through being funded by the food industry. Food safety is clearly a public health matter, which should be funded by the public purse."

Colin Maclean, director-general of the Meat and Livestock Commission, said: "Announcing the establishment of the agency does nothing itself in restoring consumer confidence... More importantly, it would be a tragedy if any further financial burdens were placed upon the meat industry, which is facing the most severe challenges it has ever faced."

Professor Philip James, the food expert from the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, whose report to the Prime Minister last year led to the White Paper, said: "Frankly, considering some of the criticisms my proposals provoked, I am surprised so many of them have remained in the White Paper. I am very pleased."

Mr Cunningham defended the Government's strong line on food safety and claimed that his recent decision to ban beef on the bone helped persuade the EU commission to recommend yesterday lifting the EU's global export ban on beef from Northern Ireland. This is seen as a key first step towards lifting the ban in the rest of the UK.

The Food Standards Agency will formulate policy on food safety in Britain and negotiate on Britain's behalf on food safety in Europe. It will also have powers to advise ministers and the food industry on food nutrition.


13 Jan 98 - Northern Ireland: Brussels likely to lift export ban on beef from province

By George Parker in London and Daniel Dombey in Brussels

Financial Times ... Tuesday 13 January 1998


The European Commission is expected tomorrow to back proposals to allow Northern Ireland to resume the export of beef , nearly two years after the EU's ban on British beef was first imposed.

The favourable decision would represent a glimmer of hope for the UK beef industry, which was yesterday hit by warnings from the British Medical Association that consumers should treat all meat as potentially contaminated.

Under the Commission proposals, the export of cattle from certain herds certified to be free of BSE , or mad cow disease, would be permitted.

The step would initially favour Northern Ireland, since the province has Britain's most complete computerised tracking system for cattle.

The move would represent a significant shift in the position of the Commission, and a diplomatic success for Jack Cunningham, agriculture minister.

The decision, however, could be rejected by the chief veterinary officers of EU member states, or by ministers at the agriculture council meeting on January 19-20.

"We will wait to see what proposal comes forward from the Commission, but we would welcome any lifting of the ban," the Ministry of Agriculture said.

Mr Cunningham is expected to have renewed talks with his EU counterparts over the coming week to attempt to swing opinion Britain's way. However, countries such as Germany are expected to resist firmly any easing of the ban .

The certified herd scheme, once accepted in principle, would offer a lifeline to Northern Ireland beef farmers who used to export up to 80 per cent of their produce.

The scheme would eventually allow a lifting of the beef export ban in other parts of the UK as computerised tracking systems come on stream.

Meanwhile, the BMA's warning that all raw meat in the UK should be treated as contaminated and a potential source of food poisoning was criticised as alarmist. The association, in a submission to the Commons agriculture committee, said widespread incidents of salmonella, e.coli 0157 and campylobacter food bugs meant cooks should take no chances in the kitchen.

Last year a record 1m people were struck down by food poisoning, 200 of them fatally.

The Meat and Livestock Commission accused the BMA of "scaremongering" and grossly exaggerating the dangers associated with meat.

"All fresh food is perishable and should be regarded as a possible source of contamination and red meat is no different to any other raw food requiring cooking before eating," said Colin Maclean, MLC director.

The government is tomorrow expected to publish its white paper on the creation of a Food Standards Agency, whose task will be to increase consumer confidence in food.


08 Jan 98 - An issue of confidence

Comment

Financial Times ... Thursday 8 January 1998


Farm trade disputes have bedevilled relations between Europe and the US for so long that their increased frequency should not, in itself, occasion surprise. However, their nature has changed. Past disputes were over import barriers designed to protect European producers. The latest rows - including the one that top US and European Union agriculture officials sought to settle yesterday - arise from restrictions decided in the name of consumers.

The change has occurred not because farm trade has become appreciably freer, but because public concern about food safety has grown . Until recently, it has been most acute in Europe, where successive BSE scares have triggered widespread alarm and a variety of trade curbs. But similar worries are now surfacing in the US, after food poisoning involving ground beef, oysters and raspberries.

In Europe, these problems have coincided with growing controversy about the acceptability of other types of food not proven to be hazardous. The EU's ban on hormone-treated beef, against which a World Trade Organisation disputes panel has ruled, is a case in point. Another is EU resistance to genetically modified foods.

Advocates of the precautionary principle say trade restrictions are justified whenever food safety is in doubt. In extreme cases, temporary bans may be unavoidable. But as a general policy, they are not the answer. They can become an alibi for protectionism, in violation of WTO rules, and thwart beneficial advances in food science. Nor do they tackle the lack of public confidence at the root of most food safety scares.

In packaged foods, branding by household-name companies underwrites consumer confidence. But producers of fresh meat and produce are often not identified and not responsible for the entire supply chain. In these cases, effective regulation is vital.

Many recent food safety controversies and trade disputes stem from inadequate regulation, real or perceived. The EU banned hormones in beef because it could not ensure its inefficient small farmers administered them safely. The BSE crisis exposed deep flaws in UK regulation , while the US has conceded weaknesses in its system by planning higher spending on inspection and safety research.

But extra public resources alone are not enough. Official bungling , notably in Europe, has undermined public confidence in governments. It can best be restored by entrusting regulation to independent agencies, open to external scrutiny.

Better arrangements are also needed for approving new products, such as genetically modified foods. Public trust in the Food and Drug Administration ensures such innovations are accepted in the US. But the greater consumer resistance in Europe is partly attributable to the opacity and debatable scientific rigour of its approvals procedures. These need urgent overhaul. WTO rules also need to be updated to deal with advances in food science.

This is a heavy agenda. But trade conflicts over food safety will only be avoided once countries' regulatory systems are regarded as sound and fair by their trading partners as well as by their own consumers.


07 Jan 98 - London mother dies from CJD

Richard Holliday

Evening Standard ... Wednesday 7 January 1998


A London woman has died from CJD - the human equivalent of mad cow Disease. Donna Mellowship, a 34 year old mother of two, who had suffered from the disease for two years, finally succumbed to it on New Years eve.

She was one of 20 diagnosed with the new variant of Creutzfeld-Jacob disease to strike victims under 40 - first identified three years ago - and one of only two still alive.

Her father Stan, 62, said at his Tottenham home: "We are convinced British beef is to blame . She was always eating beefburgers as a child and when she grew up it was alwas cheap cuts, mince, and meat pies - never rump steak".

Donna's mother Pat, 54, who was at her daughters bedside when she died, said: "In some ways it was a release as she had been in this terrible state for such a long time. But it has left us completely devastated and now there is a big empty hole in our lives". She added that her two grandchildren - Natalie 14 and Martin 11 - were being "brave and resilient".

Donna's symptoms first appeared over Christmas 1995 (UK correspondents note: this was some 3 months after MAFF new BSE had crossed over to humans but 3 months before MAFF made the fact public. This 6 month hiatus was due to the fact that the BSE regulatory regime imposed in the late1980's had remained unenforced as MAFF thought BSE could not cross into humans, consequently it took 6 months to bring the 49% of non-compliant slaughter houses in September 1995 into compliance). According to her mother, the "very alert and bright girl" started "stumbling around, dropping cups of tea, and forgetting simple things".

The symptoms became worse, Donna began to collapse , became depressed - or violent - and refused to speak . Doctors were at first sceptical and announced she was suffering from a "self-induced psychiatric disorder".

Her family was told she would eventually "snap out of it". It was not until the summer of 1996 when Donna's condition had rapidly deteriorated as the disease ate away at the brain , destroying speech, sight, and movement , that a neurologist at North Middlesex hospital suspected CJD. A brain biopsy was performed revealing typical CJD patterns.


07 Jan 98 - EU: Farm commissioner in talks over meat safety dispute

By Alison Maitland in Oxford

Financial Times ... Wednesday 7 January1998


Franz Fischler, the European Union farm commissioner, and Dan Glickman, the US agriculture secretary, are due to meet privately in Oxford, England, today in an effort to resolve a trade row over meat safety.

The EU has threatened to ban imports of fresh US meat and poultry worth up to $100m on the grounds of "serious deficiencies" in testing for antibiotic, antibacterial and other substances in live animals and animal products.

Last month the EU gave the US an ultimatum to strengthen its meat inspection controls within six months or face an import ban.

The US, which last month announced a ban on European beef and lamb because of doubts about EU surveillance of BSE, or "mad cow" disease, has said the EU threat is politically motivated.

The trade row could also possibly sabotage a bilateral deal on veterinary standards.

Mr Glickman and Mr Fischler are both speaking at a farming conference in Oxford.

The US restrictions on EU beef and lamb were seen as retaliation for a proposed EU ban on "specified risk materials" - the organs most likely to carry BSE - in beef.

The ban has been delayed until April at the earliest after the Commission failed to persuade European Union nations to back a series of exemptions aimed at easing US concerns over the proposed ban.

The Commission has also faced a barrage of protests from the US, which exports billions of dollars worth of products containing cattle derivatives, including pharmaceutical and cosmetics , to the EU each year


06 Jan 98 - Oprah Winfrey: Chat show host roasted over BSE

By Nikki Tait in Chicago

Financial Times ... Tuesday 6 Jnauary 1998


Cattle-ranchers will wade into the US courts, saying Oprah Winfrey, the Chicago-based TV personality who runs the nation's most successful TV talkshow, and one of her guests, defamed US beef products when they discussed the possible threat from "mad cow" disease.

The case - which will begin with pre-trial hearings in Texas today - pits the right to public debate on food safety against the new food disparagement laws which have been introduced in over a dozen states in recent years.

The ranchers say the industry suffered serious damage as a result of remarks made by Howard Lyman, director of the Humane Society's Eating with Conscience Campaign, in a 1996 appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Mr Lyman was concerned about the possibility of BSE - "mad cow disease" - infecting the US beef industry. In response to his remarks, Ms Winfrey asked her studio audience if they weren't concerned "a little bit", and added that the discussion had "stopped me cold from eating another burger ".

BSE has plagued the British beef industry and has prompted the destruction of many herds. The US beef industry is officially deemed BSE-free, although at least one book has been written on possible contamination.

The ranchers argue that the comments made on Ms Winfrey's show - which has been estimated to attract 15m viewers a day - drove down cattle futures on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the second biggest US futures market.

They are suing for $6.7m. But Ms Winfrey, in a statement after the show, said she maintained "my right to ask questions and to hold public debate on issues that impact the general public and my audience".

The case will test the new food defamation laws introduced by some states in response to pressure from the agricultural lobby.

Texas is one of the states which provides for possible payment of monetary damages if an individual makes statements about food product safety which he or she knows may be false.

The suit against Ms Winfrey will be heard in the US District Court, and has been brought by an Amarillo-based rancher and one of the large Texan cattle producers.

Already, defenders of free speech have argued that food defamation laws could have seriously prevented discussion about products which were ultimately deemed to be harmful - such as tobacco.


05 Jan 98 - More feared at risk of BSE

By David Fletcher, Health Correspondent

Telegraph ... Monday 5 Jnauary 1998


Cow brains eaten at the height of the BSE scare may have put more people at risk of infection than was previously thought, according to researchers.

Up to 200,000 ox brains a year were sold as food during the 1980s, a report by scientists at Leatherhead Food Research Laboratory and the Meat and Livestock Commission, says.

"At the beginning of the 80s there was very little risk but in the period between the emergence of BSE and the banning of brains from the human food chain there is a risk of infection," said Dr Bob Hart, co-author. "I think the scale of brain consumption was not appreciated by the Ministry of Agriculture."

He added: "It is safe to say that considerable numbers of brains were being sold in the 80s, although we need to check the figures."

Butchers questioned for the survey - commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food - said that many customers cooked the brain to make a pate-like spread which they ate on toast before brains were banned from sale in 1989.

A spokesman for the Meat and Livestock Commission said that steps taken to restrict BSE since 1986 meant the risk to those who had eaten brains was minimal. He said: "The number of brains sold at that time is more or less right but the number that would have had any health risks for humanity would have been a very, very small percentage of that."

A Ministry spokesman said more research was needed to evaluate the numbers put at risk by eating brains. "We are not entirely happy that the report is accurate in terms of the numbers," she said.


05 Jan 98 - Farmers to defy ban with a feast of oxtail

By David Brown, Agriculture Editor

Telegraph ... Monday 5 Jnauary 1998


Farmers are to defy the Government's beef on the bone ban by serving an entire oxtail as the centrepiece of a ceremonial dinner at the Oxford Farming Conference which begins tomorrow.

The Oxtail Club, a select group of farmers who attend Britain's most prestigious agricultural forum every year, will go ahead with the dinner which celebrates British food and places the oxtail in particular on an epicurean pedestal.

By tradition, on Wednesday night after the last day of business at the conference, an entire oxtail is mounted on a silver salver garnished with tomatoes and other salad vegetables.

The event, held every year in Worcester College, Oxford, will be attended by up to 50 farmers. It was started as a fitting end to two days of intellectual debate over the industry's future.

Oxtail Club chairman, Richard Halhead, farmer and chairman of the Lancaster livestock market, said: "We decided we were going to carry on, subject to the agreement of the college. We will get an oxtail from somewhere." Dismissing the beef on the bone ban as "ridiculous", he added: "We will carry on as before and there is no question of renaming our club."

Jack Cunningham, Minister of Agriculture, who banned the sale of oxtails, will not be invited. Tomorrow, he is expected to outline to the conference Britain's plans for a more "sustainable" and environmentally friendly farming policy.


04 Jan 98 - BSE - More risk from cow brains

Staff Reporter

PA News ... Sunday 4 January 1998


Cow brains eaten at the height of the BSE epidemic may have put many more people at risk of infection than was previously thought, according to an expert.

Research commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food suggests many more people ate brains during the height of the BSE scare than had been realised .

The report, drawn up by scientists at Leatherhead Food Research Laboratory and the Meat and Livestock Commission, says up to 200,000 ox brains a year were sold as food during the 1980s.