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Sunday, 15 April, 2001, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Chinese restaurant 'not disease source'
Chinese restaurants in Manchester
'Untrue' claims have damaged Chinese restaurants
Agriculture Minister Nick Brown says reports that the foot-and-mouth outbreak came from a Chinese restaurant were racist.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Brown said claims that it had been proven the disease came from waste from a Chinese restaurant were untrue.


I absolutely deplore the scapegoating of the Chinese community

Nick Brown
Agriculture Minister
His comments follow a meeting with Chinese community leaders earlier this month.

Restaurateurs and takeaway owners say their business dropped by up to 40% in the wake of the reports.

Mr Brown said: "I have been particularly concerned at the tone of some reporting, which seems close to carrying racist overtones.

"I absolutely deplore the scapegoating of the Chinese community. There is absolutely no justification for this.

"I, and the government, stand shoulder to shoulder with the Chinese community against racism."

Investigations continue

The minister said investigations into the source of the disease continued.

He said he had never made the link between the outbreak and Chinese restaurants.

Nor was he aware of any Ministry of Agriculture official making such a claim.

"I have asked my officials to investigate claims that the source of this story came from within this ministry," he added.

"It is down to all of us - politicians, media, farmers - to act responsibly.

"This outbreak has caused great suffering and anguish, and what we need to do is work together to defeat the disease."

Down-turn

Wing Wai Chan, of the Yangzhou Association of Chinese caterers, said earlier this month that many members had complained of a down-turn in business since the allegation began circulating.

"Some regular customers come in and say some of their friends believe the story that foot-and-mouth originated in a Chinese restaurant, that's why they're staying away," he said.

There are about 12,000 Chinese takeaways and 3,000 Chinese restaurants in the UK.

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