Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK

Business: The Economy

Cancer scare over US beef

Beef: Another trade issue threatening to split the EU and the US

The European Commission has ruled out lifting its ban on imports of hormone-treated beef after a study by scientists found evidence of a risk to human health.

A EU study warns consumers are at risk of developing cancer if they eat US beef treated with a particular growth hormone.

"The Commission agreed that there can no longer be any question of lifting the ban on hormone-treated beef since the risk assessment has identified risks to health caused by hormones," the EU executive said.

WTO is judge and jury

[ image: The offending hormone is said to pose a larger risk to children]
The offending hormone is said to pose a larger risk to children
But EU experts admit they lack sufficient information to assess the risks for five other hormones.

The World Trade Organisation has ruled that the EU must provide scientific evidence for its longstanding ban on US beef imports, or lift the ban in 10 days time.

It will say it has now done this and its report singles out a hormone called oestradiol.

It is one of six hormones used by American breeders to make their cattle grow faster and bigger.

According to the EU report, oestradiol is also a complete carcinergen. Quoting recent evidence from independent scientists, the report alleges that even small residues of it in meat may produce cancer tumours.

Children in peril

There is, so far, insufficient evidence to assess the health risks posed by five other growth hormones.

The EU scientific committee for veterinary measures concludes that those who eat beef treated with all six hormones are at risk of developing cancer, genetic problems and brain disease.

The report singles out children as those most at risk.

A second EU study warns that the risks are compounded by what it believes are inadequate regulatory controls in the US, where 90% of cattle producers resort to growth hormones.

They are freely available over the counter, the report says, and can be used without veterinary supervision.

The EU banned hormone treated beef 11 years ago, but the World Trade Organisation ruled that the EU had to provide more scientific evidence or lift the ban in 10 days time.

Last week, however, Brussels threatened to suspend even imports of hormone free US beef after discovering traces of the banned chemicals.

American farmers argue that their beef is perfectly safe and Washington stands poised to double the tariffs on selected European goods if the ban is not lifted. With both sides already embroiled in a costly row over bananas, they will be hard pressed to avoid yet another trade war.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

The Economy Contents

Relevant Stories

29 Apr 99 | The Economy
Thaw in EU-US trade tensions

03 May 99 | The Economy
WTO: Policing world trade

21 Apr 99 | The Company File
EU beefs up US trade war

Internet Links

World Trade Organisation

European Union

United States Trade Representative

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Inquiry into energy provider loyalty

Brown considers IMF job

Chinese imports boost US trade gap

No longer Liffe as we know it

The growing threat of internet fraud

House passes US budget

Online share dealing triples

Rate fears as sales soar

Brown's bulging war-chest

Oil reaches nine-year high

UK unemployment falls again

Trade talks deadlocked

US inflation still subdued

Insolvent firms to get breathing space

Bank considered bigger rate rise

UK pay rising 'too fast'

Utilities face tough regulation

CBI's new chief named

US stocks hit highs after rate rise

US Fed raises rates

UK inflation creeps up

Row over the national shopping basket

Military airspace to be cut

TUC warns against following US

World growth accelerates

Union merger put in doubt

Japan's tentative economic recovery

EU fraud costs millions

CBI choice 'could wreck industrial relations'

WTO hails China deal

US business eyes Chinese market

Red tape task force

Websites and widgets

Guru predicts web surge

Malaysia's economy: The Sinatra Principle

Shell secures Iranian oil deal

Irish boom draws the Welsh

China deal to boost economy

US dream scenario continues

Japan's billion dollar spending spree