Mad Cow - Beef Blood (!)
Used In Some French Wine
Process - China Bans Them
By James Harding in Beijing
World News / Asia-Pacific

China has halted nationwide sales of French wine over fears that blood infected with "mad cow" disease might have been used in the wine-making process in France.
It is a perplexing ban from a medical point of view, but not from a business one. China's hypersensitive customs and quarantine officials have prohibited one food product after another this year, citing threats to the nation's health and in the process protecting domestic agriculture and the Chinese food industry.
"If they can ban, they will ban," says one European agriculture official, noting that China was the only country in the world to have prohibited sales of Dutch poultry after one chick, which was anyway not in the commercial stock, was diagnosed with Newcastle disease, or chicken plague.
Over the last six months, China has at some time imposed bans on a whole range of farm imports. They include: Madagascar pigs, Zimbabwean horses and horse-related products, cloven-footed animals from the Middle East as well as meat and dairy products from Belgium, Holland, France and Germany.
The bans are not necessarily just protectionism in the name of health and hygiene. Officials at the State Administration of Inspection and Quarantine say the prohibitions are based on proven evidence of potential danger to Chinese people and the country's livestock. And, in some cases, the threat to health is real.
But, in others, there may also be commercial and political rationale behind Beijing's extreme caution. China's food products are blocked from many markets and some officials suggest Beijing may be seeking to get some negotiating leverage to open foreign markets.
The pernickety way in which Chinese officials have on occasion seized on the tiniest evidence of a health scare is also an expression of the anxiety at work in China's sometimes capricious bureaucracy. "Officials do not want to take any risk at all of allowing a disease into the country and then getting blamed for it," says one observer of the food industry. "It's too dangerous for them personally."
The logic behind what one Frenchman called the government's "ludicrous interference" in the sale of French wine in China is hard to fathom.
The problem dates back to June, when it was reported in France that nine small winemakers in the south of the country had been caught defying a European ban on the use of a by-product of bovine blood to help clear the wine of sediments in the filtering process.
According to French officials, the amount of wine involved was small - 85,000 litres out of France's annual national output of 5.4bn litres. The potential dangers of the traditional use of the bovine blood by-product in wine-making are unclear. The cases of wine made using blood had been seized and are likely to be destroyed. Anyway, none of the wine involved was destined for export.
The French hope that, with the offer of certificates guaranteeing that no blood was used making the wine, the issue can be cleared up and sales of French wine, which reached nearly 8m litres last year, can resume.
"Some people might say there is a domestic lobby of winemakers in China who want to say that French wine is no good," said one exasperated French trade official yesterday, adding that he did not know how much damage the state media reports might have done to the image of French wine in China.
China is the world's fastest growing market for wine. Domestic wine production grew by 30 per cent last year and output has multiplied 30-fold since 1980.
But, the Chinese industry cannot meet the growing demand for high-grade wine, prompting a 65 per cent rise in imports over the last three years.
Perhaps, one French official commented, there was not a commercial reason for the ban, although "it is hard to discover the grounds for it".