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Sunday, 3 December, 2000, 13:06 GMT
Should French beef exports be banned?

Exports of French beef are now under the spotlight, following the detection of BSE-infected cattle in French herds.

Britain's agriculture minister, Nick Brown, is reported to have warned the government that there was no way of preventing infected French meat from being imported into the UK.

EU agriculture ministers EU have agreed joint measures to fight the spread of mad cow disease, including plans for limited EU-wide testing for BSE.

But should they have gone further? Is there a case for banning exports of French beef altogether? Or would this be over-reacting at this stage?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

What a nasty, xenophobic country this is. I would have thought the Tories would be a little more low profile in their French-bashing, this being just a few weeks after they were damned in the Phillips report. You'd almost think the French had caused this crisis from the way they talk. We should be paying them compensation for giving them this disease.
Alison Pool, England

I can't believe that some people consider national pride more important than the health of their families.
Ed Karten, UK

Given the UK Government's record - all talk and no action on almost every issue of note - it is unsurprising that Brown seeks to pass the decision onto the FSA - can any minister in New Labour make a decision? French beef should be banned - as it should have been when they refused to lift their illegal ban on UK beef - why not add all french agricultural produce, give UK farmers a boost and play the European game the French way for once?
Andy Ryland, UK

Maybe cows should be allowed to eat natural grass

Chris B, Canada
Maybe cows should be allowed to eat natural grass and graze as nature wished them to as opposed to eating the corpses of previously slaughtered animals. Then there would be no BSE.
Chris B, Canada

I find the subject of banning beef very interesting. Cigarettes kill over 120,000 people each year in the UK. Compared to this, how many people are expected to die from BSE? Why the double standards?
Tom G, UK

I strongly suspect that the responses to banning French beef are more to do with the fact that it is French beef rather than say Dutch or Swiss. The fact is that there are still considerably fewer confirmed reports of infected herds in France than the UK.
Nigel Greensitt, UK

My personal opinion is meat of any kind is unfit for human consumption

Phil, USA
It's interesting that the country of origin of this disease is now concerned about imports of the same junk from abroad. In the US meat has its problems as well due to shoddy slaughtering and preserving methods. We have periodic outbreaks of e.coli infections caused by undercooked hamburgers. Who knows what's in the stuff? It's mainly caused by contamination with faecal matter. My personal opinion is meat of any kind is unfit for human consumption.
Phil, USA

Ban it. Again we see the deliberate inaction of a Government failing to protect its electorate, just because we might upset our European colleagues who do not think twice of doing it to us!
Chris S, UK

We plan to visit family in the Spring and we are rather frightened to eat beef whether French or English!
Jan, USA

French beef should be banned now and for the foreseeable future

Gareth Lewis, UK
So French beef is not safe for French schoolchildren but it is safe enough for the UK population. Why the discrepancy Mr Blair? French beef should be banned now and for the foreseeable future. After all the EU was quick enough to ban British beef and even now the French have refused to lift the ban even after our beef was proved safe, claiming an unjustifiable risk to their citizens. Now the boot is on the other foot it is time for a taste of their own medicine.
Gareth Lewis, UK

A decision to ban French beef should be based on public health rather than our Europhobic attitude. We shouldn't lower ourselves to acting in revenge like an immature child.
Richard Bowyer, UK

How can we be sure of any beef? Do as the Hindus do and stop eating cows!

We need comprehensive regulation beyond borders on what kind of feed is safe and in addition what kind of lab examinations are necessary to be performed on the meat before it reaches the consumers.
AG, Japan

Yes ban French beef and French fries too!!
Eddie, Houston, Texas, USA

Label it and leave it

Dave, UK
If we ban French beef, the public has no choice in the matter. If we were to allow French beef to be sold, and everybody boycotted the stuff, it would send a much clearer message to the French that we don't want it, rather than having endless squabbling and legal battles. Label it and leave it.
Dave, UK

If the safety of the food that my family and I eat is down to the honesty and integrity of two sets of people namely politicians and the French then beef is firmly off our menu for the foreseeable future.
Martin Iles, UK

We are more lenient on untraceable, over 30 month, probably BSE contaminated French beef than our own highly traceable, under 30 month, BSE free Scottish beef herds. Why Mr Blair?
Bob Wallum, Scotland

There's no problem if you just stop eating beef. Vote with your feet and then perhaps the powers that be will get the message!
Sarah W, UK & USA

Oh for the good old days when we used to eat New Zealand lamb

Audrey Blake, USA/UK citizen
I say BAN French beef in Britain, The ban on British beef is still in place in France. Of all the nerve. Oh for the good old days when we used to eat New Zealand lamb and have New Zealand butter, instead of this European foodstuff. Prime Minister Blair you are a disgrace for allowing French beef to be imported to Britain.
Audrey Blake, USA/UK citizen

I think that we should all be worried about eating ANY beef, let alone French. The way the governments have acted in regard to the possible infection is secretive and untrustworthy. I certainly will not be eating any beef no matter where it comes from.
James Hilton, UK

French beef shouldn't be banned just in retaliation for the French banning our beef, but for genuine concerns about health risks

Matthew Snape, UK
French beef shouldn't be banned just in retaliation for the French banning our beef but for genuine concerns about health risks. The extent of these health risks are not known as yet. Britain still has a worse problem with beef than France does. What I think is wrong in this case is that Europe hasn't seemed to learn anything from the mistakes the UK made in the 80's and 90's.
Matthew Snape, UK

As I understand the situation, the proposed ban would be enacted to protect public health. If this is the case then individuals should go one step further by not eating beef in the first place. It is unhealthy under the best of circumstances. The government, no matter which country one names, does not always do what's best for its people.
Lauren M. Lynley, USA

I find the Tories' call to ban French imports utterly shameless and insulting to the British public. This is a party that when in government effectively subjected the British population to a mass human experiment by allowing vast amounts of infected material into the food chain. The French are still getting far fewer cases of BSE than the UK but are demonstrating a much more responsible approach in dealing with the risk to human health.
Haroon Abbasi, England

We still have by far the highest number of cases of mad cow disease per year, so there is no reason to be smug about this

Graeme, England
We still have by far the highest number of cases of mad cow disease per year. Almost more than the rest of Europe combined, so there is no reason to be smug about this. French beef should only be banned if their current regulations are not as good as ours, otherwise we should also ban British beef.
Graeme, England

Surely we produce enough beef in the UK not to need to import from elsewhere. Let's put our own farmers before our competitors and also not put ourselves at risk from BSE.
John Collins, UK

Yes, of course French beef should be banned! It's outrageous that France should get away with still banning British beef. This Government is obviously frightened of upsetting the French for some reason. It's very sad that such politics should interfere with out safety
Katy, England

We are dealing with a pan-European problem

Laurent, France
I do not doubt that the French would understand a ban on its exports from its EU partners. The issue is not about reciprocity of banning or pointing fingers. We are dealing with a pan-European problem. The agricultural lobby must be broken, standards of safety re-evaluated and strictly enforced. Even though I understand the implications for my fellow herd farmers, French beef must not be sold within France or elsewhere. Any beef, French or British.
Laurent, France

Yes ban French beef. And at the same time ban their tasteless apples, sloppy cheese and poor wine.
Steve, UK

Fail to see the real horror of the public health implications

Fiona, France
It is absurd to imagine that BSE is confined to GB and France. The EU needs to take a collective stance on this immediately and clarify the extent of this disease throughout the entire continent. It is also incredible that members of the public and politicians view this as simply an opportunity to "get equal" with trading partners and fail to see the real horror of the public health implications.
Fiona, France

Either ban it or change the law so that ALL meat is labelled with the country of origin.
Caron, England

It should be no surprise that the French have a BSE problem. Given the number of cattle imported from the UK, BSE cases should, on a purely statistical basis, be at least tens of times greater than actually reported. And, given what the French feed their cattle, there is inevitably a problem in their own cattle too. Not only should we ban their beef, we should also demand an enquiry into the cover up that has taken place in France (and I fear, in other EU countries also). What is surprising is the spinelessness of our government... or perhaps not...
Chris, UK

French testing and measures taken to control BSE are MUCH better than the British ones. For example when a cow is found to have BSE, the whole herd where that cow came from is slaughtered. Here in the UK they would slaughter only the infected cow. I'll eat French beef over British beef anytime!
A Parks, UK

Having read all the previous comments I am quite surprised that no one has focussed on the real reason why our officials are reluctant to ban French beef imports. It can't be ignorance of public reaction - they wouldn't have got where they are without being reasonably intelligent. The true reason must be that if in the future many more CJD deaths occur in the UK then harking back to the French "cheating" about the age of the beef we allow in is a very useable tactic to divert blame. If you think that is a cynical comment I claim the record shows that they are quite capable of such self-interested manipulation of circumstances!
David Harris, UK

Whose side are they on?

Christina Plumb, England
We must ban French beef immediately. How can the Government put our lives at risk like this. The French were the first to ban our meat. It is ridiculous that they should be supporting the French. Do they want more people to die before they will do something? Whose side are they on? Certainly not their own people!
Christina Plumb, England

Who's to say that the French are the only one's with BSE, and the only one's importing beef to Britain illegally. I feel we should ban all countries whose beef controls fail to meet our own stringent standards. Of course the only people our own Government will ever get tough with is it's own public so this is highly improbable.
Alan Bond, U.K.

British beef is the safest in the world. We are the only country to have implemented rigorous testing and mass slaughter of infected herds, together with the limit of 30 months age of the cattle for human consumption. We were the only country that admitted to the problem although it was clearly there in many, if not all, other countries. We should ban the import of all non-British beef until the rest of the world catches up with our standards.
Keith Lomax, UK

After the compassion and hand of friendship the French government offered us when BSE was discovered in our beef, how could we even consider a ban on French beef?
Toby, UK

How can French beef be safe enough for us but not for the Spanish, the Italians or the Germans. With matters of public health we should say if there is ANY DOUBT WHAT-SO-EVER it should be banned until proven safe.
Lee Meyrick, UK

We should apply the same standards to French beef as we do to British - and thereby ban French beef as falling short of that standard. All of the arguments France has used to justify continuing their British beef ban apply in even greater measure to their own produce. They should be required to go through the same post-BSE proving process that Britain had to endure, with EU veterinary panels being asked to study this problem before they are allowed to export their beef again.
David Hazel, UK

French beef should not be banned. The French are now detecting BSE in their beef is due to the recent introduction of testing for BSE. We should ban the import of beef from every European nation that has yet to implement such testing. It is only their beef that is of questionable safety!
Damien, UK

Give us some credit!

Alain, France
As least we French has recognized the potential threat and attempted to do something about it. The Germans and Italians refuse point-blank to admit that their beef may also be infected. Give us some credit!
Alain, France

I think we should give France the benefit of the doubt on this one. Yes it is ironic that it is they who were so eager to ban British Beef who are now in the same mess. However the damage done to British farming by the ban should not be allowed to happen to another EU partner. People should know the risks but should have the choice to eat beef or not.
M Donnell, England

Do unto others as they do unto you. Ban French beef, then keep the ban in place for several years after it is declared safe as well.
Martin, England

The restrained reasonableness (naivety?) of the British government in the niceties of EU procedures and in putting British citizens health, interests etc at risk (however, marginal) compared to the reaction of other EU countries is very telling. Culturally it shows why we often have problems in dealing with continental Europe and in our approach in implementing EU decisions. If we are seriously to consider remaining in the EU then we must learn to culturally change or become culturally more flexible. French beef should be banned immediately - any other course of action is positively un-European.
Will Lever, UK

I didn't believe the British government that beef was safe in the 1980's and stopped eating it. Now the problem has moved across the channel and with the huge farming lobby and corruption in the European agricultural scene I shall stop eating it here. Who knows how widespread it is, and would you trust the EU on this? The continentals were very quick to condemn British beef, it will be enjoyable to go to the butcher's and say I cannot trust European beef anymore. This problem is hardly likely to stop at the French border, is it!
Ken Beach, Germany

This government are quite happy to wipe out our own farmers but would never upset their French allies

Philip Ross, England
This government are quite happy to wipe out our own farmers but would never upset their French allies. All French products should have been banned for their illegal refusal to lift the ban on British beef. It would appear that the French are shipping meat through Ireland so this government should ban beef products from all EU countries.
Philip Ross, England

Of course it should be banned, if there is any BSE detected in French herds, then we should take the same very tough line with French beef produce as they did with us.
Garry, London, England

Britain has admitted to the global problem, whilst other countries decided to ignore it and claim to be BSE-free without actually testing. France is now learning the hard way that shutting your eyes and refusing to see a problem doesn't make it go away.
Of course we should ban French Beef, protect the British consumer, protect the British farmer, and keep the ban in place till at least every constraint placed on the British farm industry is also met by the French.
Chris P, UK

Why take chances - Ban all French beef products now.

Richard Houghton, England
Surely, a lesson to be learnt from the bad management of the UK Government of the BSE issue, is that - no one body of people has the answer as to the infection rate and likely fatality rate from BSE. Why take chances - Ban all French beef products now.
Richard Houghton, England

The French kicked up such a fuss when some British beef was found to contain BSE and made a prolonged stand when other countries lifted their bans on British Beef. I am in no doubt that we should ban their beef until we are absolutely certain, beyond all possible doubt, that there is no trace of BSE in any French beef.
Sue, UK

It's quite plain to see that old administrations have failed to ensure the safety of the public, both French and English. If we are to have any confidence when entering Europe then a complete ban must be enforced.
Kevin Hinton, UK

I foresee us eating t-bone steaks (with a little 'T'!) from sheep!

John C., Warwick, England
What a preposterous idea to let the French BSE meat into our country! Now they have sheepishly (sic) admitted to their stock being infected, then the ban should be imposed immediately! I agree with Tim Booth that a long-term ban in retaliation to the French ban on British beef after it was proved safe would be petty, however good it might make us feel! I think the only way to overcome the BSE problem is to eliminate all infected herds, leaving only the grazers who have not yet succumbed. I foresee us eating t-bone steaks (with a little 'T'!) from sheep!
John C., Warwick, England

After all that has happened with BSE and CJD in this country I can't believe that the question still needs to be asked! If this government will not impose an immediate ban on this potential threat to human health then it does not deserve to govern.
Mark Rozze, England

It seems only sensible to ban beef from any country known to have even one case of BSE. However, in the UK, as almost everyone would have eaten contaminated meat most of the damage has already been done. I don't think it hardly matters to us.
Ali, England

The UK cannot take the moral high ground when it has been responsible for the whole BSE epidemic. Any ban on French produce would be purely political. It would also be illogical because the UK is taking legal action against France for failing to follow EU guidelines. The EU has not called for a ban. Such action would simply undermine our own case. It is a pity France continued to permit the use of bone meal feed long after it had been banned in the UK.
John, UK

Over-reacting has nothing to do with protecting us from this lethal disease, Measures should be taken so that there is no way we can get in contact with any infected beef.
SH (London), UK

Without a doubt French imports of beef into the United Kingdom should be banned now! As soon as there was a whisper of a problem with our meat the French had already banned it causing mass panic in Europe, crippling our own beef industry and ruining most livestock farmers. British beef is now surely the most safe in the world, so why bother risking our health any more?
Seton, United Kingdom

If a suspension is implemented a solution will be the first priority

Rob Watson, UK
As we have seen in the UK the ban on British beef products focused the industry into finding a solution. If a suspension is implemented a solution will be the first priority. The French people should not be subject to CJD the same as the British and Europe must consider human health, and whilst I recognise the incidence of BSE is far smaller in France than in the UK even today, it is better the issue is dealt with completely now. So yes, suspend the sale of French beef until controls are as strict as the UK.
Rob Watson, UK

Absolutely - the British farming industry doesn't have the monopoly on blinkered self-interest, and if their beef got banned when evidence of BSE arose, so should France's. Rather than pointing fingers or resorting to petty nationalist squabbles over whose beef is best, other countries should try to learn from Britain's mistakes. Ironically, it may soon be the case that British beef is the only kind that IS safe to eat, because we've had longer to try to put things right.
Julian, UK

Definitely, they were the one of the first to ban British beef and that move cost 1000's of jobs and millions of pounds. The French have to be brought into line with the rest of Europe and encouraged to conduct correct framing practices. If we don't ban their beef it risks damaging all credibility in the beef industry that British farmers have had to fight for the last few years.
Mark, Germany (UK citizen)

Absolutely! The French are the worst offenders of not following EU guidelines and I wouldn't trust any beef being exported now or in the future.
Lorraine, UK

The French took great delight in humiliating us Brits over the beef crisis. What poetic justice that they now find themselves in the same position. Yes, Ban French beef.
B Maguire, UK

There's a real danger of snapping too quickly

Alex White, UK
There's a real danger of snapping too quickly and claiming we should ban French beef because they banned our beef. This won't solve anything, if the French government put lives as risk then of course we should ban French beef. But at the moment, in theory, their beef should be under the same strict guidelines as British beef... but then who can trust a farmer?
Alex White, UK

It is ridiculous that the Government refuses to ban the import of French Beef. Have they learned nothing from the past experiences? For years the Government said that British beef was safe and we are now beginning to see the effects of that decision in the form of human variant CJD. What makes them think that the French beef is going to be any different? What will we see next, the present minister for health feeding French hamburgers to his children declaring it safe? It should be banned now before we have to face the consequences in the future! Better safe than sorry!
Gareth Steed, England

If there is a recognised threat to UK consumers then French beef imports should be temporarily halted until action is taken by the French government to make beef safe. A long-term ban in retaliation to the French ban on British beef after it was proved safe would be petty and detrimental to trade relations.
Chris Booth,UK

Ensure that the controls imposed in Britain are introduced in France

Michael Finch, UK
In your programme Today, Tim Yeo the Conservative agriculture spokesman said the first reports about suspect French beef surfaced in the Press about a month ago. Not so! Farmers Guardian reported meat trade claims of a potential problem in our June 23 edition. We put the meat trade claims to Nick Brown at the time and to the Food Standards Agency. So far, no one has been able to produce evidence that food processors are importing this old beef and selling it in British shops. The essential thing is to ensure that the controls imposed in Britain are introduced in France - or any other country with a problem. Tight controls in Britain have worked in cutting significantly the incidence of BSE. If France did everything Britain has done - at this early stage in the emergence of the disease in France - we could anticipate its early decline.
Michael Finch, UK

Until we can be sure that all imported meat is clear of any chance of being infected with BSE, we should ban, immediately and without reservation, all imported meat. The welfare of the UK citizen is paramount.
I.G.Houldsworth, England

The French persist in an illegal ban on British beef despite the fact that our beef is probably the safest in the world. Now their beef is shown to be potentially dangerous (despite their earlier promises it wasn't), of course a ban should be imposed.
John B, UK

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