- PARIS - Panic over mad cow
disease swept Europe on Wednesday, with French chefs abandoning beef specialties,
Italian schools cutting beef from menus and French leaders convening emergency
- The European Union even stepped in, warning European
governments to intensify safety controls so infected beef does not make
its way to stores, restaurants and kitchens.
- To help allay the spreading concern, EU Health Commissioner
David Byrne proposed extending testing for the disease to include millions
of older animals. The EU already has a plan in place to extend annual testing
to some 170,000 animals next year.
- "The public needs reassurance that controls already
in place are effected," Byrne told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
"Extensive testing now appears to be the most effective means of providing
- The EU also attempted to restore consumer confidence
by saying the rise in confirmed cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy,
or mad cow disease, among French herds was largely due to improved testing
rather than any spread of the fatal brain-wasting ailment.
- Scientists suspect BSE is linked to a similar human malady,
variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Two people have died of variant CJD
in France, compared to more than 80 in Britain.
- Public anxiety has taken a firm hold in France, where
chefs abandoned gastronomic favorites like boeuf bourguignon. On Tuesday,
the government banned the T-bone steak - just days after banning sweetbreads,
a delicacy made from a cow's thymus gland. According to the EU, beef consumption
is down as much as 40 percent.
- Outside France, the scare has stirred not only fear but
resentment in countries whose beef has been boycotted by France because
of mad cow disease.
- About 200 farmers in Lausanne, Switzerland, angrily protested
a policy that allows cows from France to be imported, then slaughtered
and sold as Swiss beef.
- "Four years ago, when we were affected by mad cow
disease, France boycotted us," protest organizer Philippe Curchod
was quoted as saying by the daily Le Matin. "Now ... the French can
export hundreds of cows without any problem."
- Britain, too, has a bone to pick with the French: While
an EU ban on British beef was lifted last year after a raft of safety measures,
France has continued to bar British beef.
- Conservative Party lawmaker Tim Yeo urged the British
government to ban French beef.
- "The agriculture minister's refusal to stand up
to his French counterpart shows once again that he is more interested in
protecting French farmers than British consumers," Yeo said.
- Gian Paolo Angelotti, president of an Italian butchers
organization, said Wednesday that beef sales had decreased 10 percent in
Italy, the ANSA news agency reported.
- By Wednesday, over 30 Italian municipalities had banned
beef from school menus, and the government issued a ban on livestock feed
containing meat. Spain has banned imports of French breeding cattle.
- Some 90 cases of BSE have been found in France this year
compared to 31 cases in 1999. Increases have also been detected in Ireland
and Belgium, although at a lower rate, the EU said.
- The French cases pale in comparison with the mad cow
outbreak in Britain, where some 180,000 cattle were affected, causing the
EU to ban British beef exports in 1996.
- France stepped up its safety controls Tuesday with a
ban on the use of animal-based feed for all livestock.
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