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The BBC's Justin Webb in Brussels
"A very dramatic and expensive action"
 real 56k

UK Agricultural Minister, Nick Brown
"We have to make sure it will not come back"
 real 28k

The BBC's Janet Barrie in Brussels
"These Europe-wide measures are all about restoring public confidence in beef across the EU"
 real 28k

Monday, 4 December, 2000, 17:40 GMT
EU agrees anti-BSE action
Soil to be tested for BSE
Soil tested at a BSE-infected farm in Germany
European agriculture ministers have approved a six-month ban on meat and bonemeal in fodder in a drive to halt the spread of mad cow disease (BSE).

The initial ban, due to take effect in January, does not include fishmeal used in pig and poultry feed, officials say.

The emergency Brussels meeting comes in the wake of panic in France where BSE - which is widely believed to cause the fatal brain illness variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease in humans - is on the increase.

Carcasses to be tested for BSE
The EU plans to compensate farmers for a major livestock slaughter

The ban, expected to cost $1.7 bn, was approved by all 15 ministers.

They are also expected to ban the sale of beef from cattle aged over 30 months, following the example of the UK.

That would entail the slaughter of thousands of animals pending comprehensive testing for BSE, and the EU Commission has agreed to contribute 70% of the compensation that would be required for farmers.

Price for public health

Commenting on the six-month ban, EU Health Commissioner David Byrne said it was "the price which must be paid to restore public confidence in our commitment to protect public health".

Germany and Spain have also recently reported their first cases of BSE.

The UK Agriculture Minister, Nick Brown, urged European Union countries to pull together on enforcing the proposed new restrictions.

He also demanded action against countries enforcing unilateral bans.

Nick Brown
Nick Brown wants Europe to get tough

A number of countries have already imposed unilateral bans on importing French beef since the crisis in the country began two months ago and France is still enforcing a unilateral ban of British beef long.

"I think the French were wrong on their ban against British beef," Mr Brown told BBC radio.

"For the rest of the European Union to replicate that would be a mistake.

Fish and chicken meal is not thought to be a problem, but because factories across Europe make all types of meal, EU officials are afraid feed could be contaminated.

Unhappy

The UK and Scandinavian governments are unhappy about such proposals because they believe they have already taken the appropriate food safety measures.

Many member states with no confirmed cases of mad cow disease argue they will be burdened with extra costs.

But the European Commission said last week the measures were urgently needed to restore public confidence, and that they are an attempt to harmonise a number of different national approaches to containing the problem.

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