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The BBC's Gavin Hewitt reports
"A devastated region wants compensation"
 real 28k

Paul Welsh reports for BBC News
"This has been a relatively unnoticed disaster"
 real 28k

Thursday, 6 January, 2000, 20:23 GMT
French oil spill threatens seafood

oil on beach Rescue workers scoop oil off a beach in Brittany


France's food safety authority has recommended a ban on shellfish from areas affected by oil pollution from the tanker Erika.

The ship broke up and sank on 12 December, spilling more than 10m litres of oil into the Atlantic ocean. Much of it has now washed up on France's coast, causing massive environmental damage.

The food safety authority (AFSSA) said there should be an embargo on collecting shellfish from the affected areas.

It said such produce accumulated and stored potentially-carcinogenic chemicals from the oil.

Fish on the other hand could break down the chemicals and would have been minimally exposed to contamination, it said.


Facts about the Erika oil spill
350km of coastline affected
100,000 birds may have been killed
11m litres of oil spilled
23m litres remain in the wreckage

The authority also recommended that farmed oysters and mussels that were not moved to protected beds before the oil came ashore should be kept off the market.

The AFSSA was responding to a government request for guidelines on the threat to food safety from the oil slick.

"These are common-sense recommendations," said Claude Lambre of the AFSSA, the same organisation that recommended the ban on British beef.

Clean-up

TotalFina, the French company that chartered the vessel, has already put more than $6m into the emergency clean-up operation.

Large sums have been spent on an oil company compensation fund and programmes to help the affected areas recover.

The bill was expected to reach $100m, with the greatest cost likely to be incurred by the retrieval of the oil remaining in the Erika's tanks.


A dead bird in a pool of oil

The tanker's two halves, believed to still contain some 23m litres of fuel, are in 120m (380 feet) of water, 70km (40 miles) south of the Brittany coast.

A robot deployed to examine the state of the tanks showed no sign of leaks.

But fishermen, oyster farmers and the tourism industry will all be hit. The first of many lawsuits has been filed against those responsible for the maintenance of the tanker.

Conservationists estimate up to 100,000 birds will die - 21,000 have so far perished.

The BBC's correspondent in Paris, John Sopel, said recent polls showed that many French thought the government had responded too slowly to the crisis.

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See also:
05 Jan 00 |  Europe
Oil spill damage worsens
31 Dec 99 |  Europe
Oil firm offers clean-up cash
28 Dec 99 |  Europe
Jospin pledges action on oil tankers
28 Dec 99 |  UK
Oil birds arrive in UK
26 Dec 99 |  Europe
Oil spill takes its toll
17 Dec 99 |  Europe
Clean-up crews battle 'thick' oil slick

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