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The BBC's Simon Crutchley
"This will do little for consumer confidence in the beef industry"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 16 January, 2001, 11:53 GMT
McDonald's says beef is 'safe'
Italian cow
Firm says infected cow not destined for its restaurants
The American fast-food chain McDonald's has told outlets in Italy that its meat is safe, after reports that an animal infected with mad cow disease was destined to be used in burgers.

The cow was found at a meat processing plant belonging to the food conglomerate the Cremonini Group, outside Modena in northern Italy.


We have full trust in Cremonini, which has the country's highest-quality procedures

McDonald's
The group supplies meat to McDonald's restaurants around Europe.

But McDonald's says that the particular plant where the cow was discovered was not one of the factories which supplies McDonald's.

Elsewhere in Europe, Spain and Belgium have announced new cases of the disease.

On Tuesday Spain said two new suspected cases had been found in the northern region of Asturias, while Belgium reported two confirmed cases.

Appeal for calm

"We have full trust in Cremonini, which has the country's highest-quality procedures," McDonald's senior director of European Communications Alessandra di Montezemolo was quoted as saying by the Independent newspaper.

McDonald's sales have been unaffected by the scare.

Bavarian protest
"Stop this madness!" Bavarian farmers protest at the mass slaughter of cattle
But shares in Cremonini fell by 13%, causing the suspension of trading, as the Italian Government said there may be more cases of mad cow disease.

"Italians, remain calm! we are doing everything necessary," said Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato.

Mr Amato, who is on a visit to Beijing, said that tests were being conducted openly and that Italy had one of the best records in Europe.

Testing

The European Commission has been trying to allay escalating public fears over the discovery of new cases of BSE, saying they are "no surprise" in the wake of a stringent testing programme, which began on 1 January.

"Although we must remain vigilant, we should also not be adding to the fears of the population simply because we are conducting a testing programme," said a spokeswoman for the European Commission.
Spanish blockade
Spanish farmers set up a blockade calling for compensation

As part of the testing programme, the UK also announced new checks on thousands of dead cattle.

The UK has suffered the worst outbreak of BSE anywhere but the level of infection has been declining since stringent measures against the disease have been brought in.

But farmers around Europe have been expressing increasing anger over the handling of the BSE crisis.

In Spain farmers held a series of protests throughout the country, demanding more compensation for losses caused by plummeting beef prices.

In Oldenburg, in Northern Germany, around 5,000 farmers protested against the government's policy of slaughtering a whole herd if one animal is found to be infected.

In Bavaria in southern Germany around 100 farmers gathered to protest as cattle from a BSE infected herd were taken away for slaughter.

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | Europe
Brussels plays down BSE crisis
21 Dec 00 | Europe
Austria bans German beef
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