Beef and two minds for French experts

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The Independent Online
THE COMMITTEE that launched a million angry words over the Channel reached its final verdict on the safety of British beef yesterday. The decision was: "Er, we are not sure."

The French food safety agency which began the Anglo-French beef war in September, with a categorical statement that British beef exports were still dangerous, gave its second opinion. The scientists, commenting on a compromise agreed by London and Paris, said they could no longer give a judgement one way or the other.

The seven-page document, delivered to the French government yesterday, carefully avoids a recommendation to lift or maintain the embargo, leaving that decision to Paris. French ministers are thought to be likely to bow to British and EU pressure and lift the ban.

Last night a spokesman for the European Commission said: "The report leaves the risk management to the politicians. The Commission hopes this will help the French government."

Paris has until Thursday to respond to the Commission if it is to avoid the second stage of legal proceedings, a reasoned opinion, being taken soon.

Last night the French government was said to be studying the document, which has not been made public.