Cow remains 'permitted' in French cattle feed

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Further evidence emerged yesterday that France ignores its own purported policy ofzero tolerance of the risks associated with BSE, or mad cow disease.

Further evidence emerged yesterday that France ignores its own purported policy ofzero tolerance of the risks associated with BSE, or mad cow disease.

Liberation, a French newspaper, reported that traces of the ground-up remains of cows were permitted in French cattle feed, despite an official ban going back 10 years.

For the past two years, French customs and fraud officers have been ordered to allow the use of compound cattle feeds containing 0.3 per cent or less of minced and dried remains of cows and other grazing animals. The presence of cow remains in cattle feed is blamed for the epidemic of BSE in Britain. It has been banned from cattle feed in all European Union countries since 1990.

The French feed industry argues that it is difficult to test the contents of cattle feed to an accuracy of less than 0.3 per cent. Feed manufacturers also say it is impossible to guarantee that feed is 100 per cent clear of cattle remains. Unlike the UK, France continues to allow the use of dried cattle remains in feed for pigs and hens.

Scientists have warned that BSE transmission through feed is a complex, ill-understood subject. Some animals can eat large quantities of suspect feed and not catch the disease; others might succumb to exposure to tiny amounts of infected feed.

The disclosure of an official French policy of "tolerance" of BSE risk - however small - undercuts the main argument used by Paris a year ago when it defied EU orders and imposed a unilateral ban on British beef imports. The French government said it had to pursue, where possible, a policy of zero risk with human health.

Since then a number of instances have emerged of French policy on BSE taking risks when tighter controls might damage agricultural or food trade interests. A French consumers' association yesterday called on the government to "stop taking risks with human health" and ban use of cattle remains in all animal feed.

Claims earlier this week that French beef is now less safe than British have been dismissed as misleading by French officials, who say that France has had only 152 cases of BSE in the past decade compared with 180,000 in Britain.

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