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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 17:19 GMT
France refuses to lift British beef ban
Dutch scientists test for BSE.
France still wants "assurances" on British beef
France will not end its boycott of British beef in the next three months despite a European ruling that the ban is illegal.


We are not going to ease up our vigilance of health safety just when the beef market is beginning to pick up

Francois Patriat
The country's recently-appointed Agriculture Minister, Francois Patriat, said on Tuesday that France still did not have assurances that the meat was safe from mad cow disease.

Mr Patriat said the government did not plan to address the ban between now and a general election, scheduled for June.

"We are not going to ease up our vigilance of health safety just when the beef market is beginning to pick up," Mr Patriat told journalists.

British beef
British beef was banned for three and a half years
The European Commission ended a three-and-a-half-year ban on British beef exports in the summer of 1999, imposed because of fears of the presence of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) - or mad cow disease.

But France continued to block access to imports.

The European Union's highest court, the European Court of Justice, ruled in December that France was acting illegally by continuing to ban the meat.

'Lack of data'

But Mr Patriat said that the court ruling was based on "procedural grounds, not on matters of substance".

An aide to Mr Patriat said that France would not yield to British calls to raise the ban because it still lacked full data on BSE numbers in Britain's national herd.

A recent EU report concluded that disease levels in Britain had to be "seen with a considerable degree of uncertainty" because of the limited extent of testing.

More than 100 people in Britain, France and Ireland have died or are thought to be dying from the human form of BSE.

Mr Patriat took over as France's agriculture minister from Jean Glavany in February.


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