Farmers angry over beef ban

THE MINISTER of Agriculture, Nick Brown, will next week publish the report by Professor Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, exclusively revealed in The Independent, which favours continuing the ban on beef on the bone.

Mr Brown came under renewed pressure to ignore the report and allow the sale of beef on the bone yesterday, as farmers, butchers and MPs joined a chorus calling for an end to the 13-month ban on sales of T-bone steaks, ribs and oxtail, which were worth pounds 320m annually.

The minister has been engaged in a fierce inter- departmental battle over food safety. Mr Brown, a former chief whip, tried to stifle plans for an independent Food Standards Agency - a manifesto commitment.

Ministry insiders claim that Mr Brown ordered ministers not even to talk about the draft proposal for the agency, which he inherited from his predecessor, Jack Cunningham. The Department of Health put pressure on Downing Street for the Prime Minister to intervene,and Mr Brown was overruled. A Bill to set up the agency is expected on Wednesday.

Professor Donaldson's report warns that maternal transmission of bovine spongiform encephalopathy could pose a risk to consumers eating meat on the bone.

A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union said: "All the scientific evidence that has been made public so far suggests that the risks from eating beef on the bone are absolutely minuscule."

A spokesman for the Guild of Quality Butchers, which represents 500 independent shops, said: "We support the principle of consumer choice. They are resentful that the choice has been taken away from them."