Minister attacks EU plan on BSE

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The Independent Online
EU plans to postpone the extension of stringent anti-BSE controls to other parts of Europe, exempting up to eight countries, could put consumers at risk, the Government warned yesterday.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said agriculture minister Jack Cunningham had misgivings about European Commission proposals to delay full implementation of a ban on offal, bone and other risky parts of cows and sheep until January 1999.

Even more worrying as far as Britain is concerned, is that up to eight countries could be officially whitelisted for BSE risk and so exempted fully from the obligation to ban animal parts which pose most danger. Those who apply for exemption will not have to take any new precautions before January.

Seven countries - Britain, Ireland, France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and Portugal - face blacklisting as official BSE risk zones under the plan. They will have to start complying with the rules on offal removal by 1 July. Countries which have not had a "native" BSE case stand a good chance of being certified in the "low" or "negligible" risk category.

The proposals, which could cause chaos for consumers, will be widely seen as a huge concession to the Germans. Bonn has always insisted it does not need British slaughtering regulations because it has recorded no indigenous cases and the cost of upgrading German abattoirs would be out of all proportion to the risk.