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"These were the images that have shocked the French nation"
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The BBC's Justin Webb
"An emotional news conference heard a specific claim against the British government"
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Friday, 17 November, 2000, 12:20 GMT
Governments sued over French CJD
French cows
France is experiencing its own BSE crisis
Relatives of two French victims of new variant CJD - the human form of "mad cow disease" - are suing the French and British Governments and the European Commission.

Mad cow disease exists and it's serious. One must take precautions but not panic

European Commission President Romano Prodi
A lawyer acting jointly for 19-year-old Arnaud Eboli, who is suffering from vCJD, and Laurence Duhamel, who died from the brain wasting disease last February aged 36, filed a suit in a Paris civil court.

It accuses Britain of knowingly exporting possibly contaminated material, and France and the European Commission of failing to take the threat of disease seriously enough.

A spokesman for the Commission said "it considers itself not guilty of any improprieties," but said a defence case would be drawn up.

French cases increase

France has just banned beef on the bone and suspect animal feed because of renewed fears about the disease.

Beef on the bone
France has just banned beef on bone
Three times as many cases of BSE have been discovered in French herds this year as in 1999.

Consumer panic broke out after the revelation last month that eight tonnes of meat from a BSE-infected herd had gone on sale in French supermarkets.

Hundreds of French schools have already dropped beef from their menu, while sales of beef have slumped by 40%.

So far only two people are confirmed to have died of the human variant of BSE in France, compared with more than 80 deaths in Britain over the past decade.

But the number of BSE cases recorded this year in France has more than tripled since last year to 101.

Italian ban

The BSE scare is already having repercussions across Europe.

Italy introduced a ban on Friday on imports of French beef from high-risk animals and of beef on the bone.

The German Farm Minister, Karl-Heinz Funke, also said he would take steps to ensure French animal feed "which is not considered safe in its own country" was not sold in Germany.

Meanwhile the Netherlands discovered the country's first case of BSE for 20 months on Thursday. An Agriculture Ministry spokeswoman said parliament had been informed.

The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, on a visit to Greece, tried to play down fears over the disease.

"Mad cow disease exists and it's serious. One must take precautions but not panic," Mr Prodi said.

He said the Commission had asked European Union member-states to conduct tests for BSE and would keep insisting on this, but it could not impose testing on national authorities.

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See also:

17 Nov 00 | Europe
Italy bans French beef imports
14 Nov 00 | Europe
France acts on BSE
10 Nov 00 | Europe
BSE alarm spreads across Europe
27 Oct 00 | Europe
More suspect beef sold in France
25 Oct 00 | UK
BSE: The spectre spreads?
20 Oct 00 | Health
vCJD and BSE - the link
17 Nov 00 | Europe
Italy bans French beef imports
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