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The BBC's Jon Sopel
"For Britain 4 years ago read France today"
 real 56k

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes
"The ban also reflects growing fear in Switzerland that its own BSE epidemic is by no means over"
 real 28k

Friday, 10 November, 2000, 17:04 GMT
BSE alarm spreads across Europe
French cows
There will be no mass slaughter of French cows
BSE fears are spreading across Europe as measures are considered to restrict the sale of beef in France, Switzerland and Italy.

Officials in Geneva have announced an immediate ban on beef in the city's schools and nurseries after the discovery of two new cases of BSE in Switzerland.

Italy has said it will impose its own ban on beef unless there is an urgent meeting of the European Union's veterinary committee to discuss the cow crisis.

Cow with BSE
Swiss cases of BSE are second only to Britain
But in France, Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany rejected a proposal by farmers to slaughter of millions of cattle in a bid to wipe out the disease.

Mr Glavany said it would be too costly and would only create more "psychosis" among consumers.

"Their idea is not rational," he said.

"Banning from the food chain all animals born before 1996 assumes that all these cattle are contaminated, that they all ate meat and bone meal and that their muscle-tissue (meat) is infected."

Supermarkets

Alarm about BSE - mad cow disease - has spread quickly in France since it was revealed last month that eight tonnes of potentially contaminated beef had been sold to supermarkets.

Paris butcher
Authorities in Geneva have banned beef in schools
President Jacques Chirac has called for an immediate ban on meat and bone meal in animal feed.

But the French authorities have said that a complete ban could only be put in place after a full investigation by the state food safety authority, which could take up to four months.

Public concern has also grown as the French government reports new cases of BSE on an almost daily basis.

Two new cases were reported on Thursday - including the first in the southern department of Tarn - bringing the year's total to 94, and the overall total since 1991 to 174.

Growing concern

In Switzerland, public opinion has been influenced by the crisis in France, but the ban in schools also reflects growing concern that its own BSE problem is not over.

Incinerator PA
A massive programme of slaughter and incineration was carried out in Britain
After Britain, Switzerland has had the highest number of BSE cases in Europe.

In 1996, the government introduced a ban on animal remains in cattle feed but only last week two new cases of BSE were discovered - both in animals born since then.

Now the Federal Department of Agriculture and Swiss farmers want a complete ban on animal remains in all types of feed.

Italian alarm

In Italy, Agriculture Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said:"We must have an urgent meeting of the EU's permanent veterinary committee."

"If the committee doesn't meet as soon as possible, the Italian government could decide to block the importation of beef at risk," he said.

Members of Italy's Green party demonstrated outside government buildings in Rome calling for a strong commitment from the government to tackle the mad cow crisis.

They also called for an embargo on the import of French beef and a total ban on bone meal, which is used in Italy in pig, chicken and fish feed.

Meanwhile, the Swiss Red Cross has said it will no longer accept blood donations from people who have lived in Britain for more than two months.

Red Cross officials have been watching the British cases of BSE in humans, known as new variant Creutzfeld-Jacob disease with growing alarm.

It is the first such ban to be introduced in Europe and will affect around two thousand blood donors in Switzerland.

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See also:

07 Nov 00 | Europe
Chirac demands CJD action
27 Oct 00 | Europe
More suspect beef sold in France
25 Oct 00 | UK
BSE: The spectre spreads?
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