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Friday, 27 October, 2000, 05:46 GMT 06:46 UK
More suspect beef sold in France
Cows
There have been 78 reported cases in France this year
By James Coomarasamy in Paris

A French Government agency says supermarkets may have bought eight times more meat suspected of being infected with mad cow disease than was originally thought.

When France's food scare was first made public last Saturday, it was reported that the Carrefour supermarket chain had unwittingly bought around a tonne of meat from a herd later found to contain a BSE-infected animal.

Since then, two other supermarkets, Auchan and Cora, have joined Carrefour in removing beef from their shelves, after they too admitted to buying meat from the same Normandy abattoir.

Now, the French Government agency for the repression of frauds says there could have been far more suspect beef than was originally thought.

Impossible to detect

It is calculated that up to eight tonnes may have been sold to the three companies, although it says the amount is impossible to detect, since the minced meat for which it was used is often a mixture of meat from several herds.

This revelation will all the same further erode public confidence, which had already been shaken by the rising levels of BSE in the country.

The French Government has just announced another seven cases of the disease, bringing the total number to 78 this year.

In the whole of 1999, just 31 animals died in France from BSE.

Many of the infected cows have been detected by a nationwide screening programme which will eventually test 48,000 slaughtered cows.

In the light of the latest scandal, there have been calls, notably from President Jacques Chirac, to make the programme universal.

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See also:

22 Oct 00 | Europe
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