French beef industry workers protest at mad cow measures

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The Independent Online

Beef industry unions today blocked traffic for hours at toll booths in Rennes, Lyon, Bordeaux and Paris to protest stringent new government-ordered testing for mad cow disease.

Beef industry unions today blocked traffic for hours at toll booths in Rennes, Lyon, Bordeaux and Paris to protest stringent new government-ordered testing for mad cow disease.

The A13 and A1 highways near Paris were among the routes blocked by slaughterhouse owners, meat transporters and other professionals who say the ambitious plan to screen 20,000 animals every week is hurting an industry already battered by mad cow fears.

In a statement, three protesting unions said they felt "let down by the government.

The protesters called for a lifting of the blockade in the early afternoon.

As fears about mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, peaked in November, the 15-nation European Union decided that all cows more than 30 months old would be tested at slaughterhouses before they could enter the food chain.

Older cows are considered to be at higher risk from the fatal, brain-wasting disease.

Experts believe infected meat can cause people to contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a similar illness. Two people have died of the disease in France, compared to about 80 in Britain, where the disease was identified in 1995.

In France, consumer confidence in beef slumped after it was discovered that potentially infected meat had wound up on grocery store shelves in October. Since then, many school cafeterias have taken beef off the menu, and several cuts - such as the T-bone - have been banned.

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