Easing of beef ban still 'months away'

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The Independent Online
The European Commission believes it will be months before member states will agree to lift the ban on British beef, sources in Brussels said yesterday, writes Sarah Helm.

The commission, which wants to ease the ban, will today attempt to gauge which states are ready to agree with it. The idea of lifting the ban on gelatine and tallow, two beef-related products, will be floated at the second day of a meeting in Brussels of the EU's Standing Veterinary Commission.

Germany is expected to reject the proposal and others may follow. However, if Germany is the only objector, the measure could be voted through. A vote would then be taken next week on easing the ban.

Member states remain extremely worried about Britain's failure to provide reassurance that eradication is being properly carried out. Britain "appeared incapable of organising an eradication programme", said one senior official.

Britain's partners insist there should be evidence of a programme producing a fall in BSE cases, meaning that an easing of the ban could be "several months down the line", according to one official.

A farmer who falsified forms to claim cattle he sold had come from BSE-free farms was fined pounds 30,000 at Plymouth Crown Court yesterday. David Dunster, 62, of Dartington, south Devon, was also ordered to pay pounds 8,500 costs.

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