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Last Updated: Friday, 22 October, 2004, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
UK beef restrictions 'must end'
BSE cow
British beef has become safer
The government must do more to end "outrageous" restrictions on the export of British beef, the Conservatives say.

The UK no longer has the highest amount of BSE in Europe but it is the only country with limitations on exports.

A ban ended five years ago, but strict traceability rules mean only a tiny amount of British beef goes abroad.

The government says it has an "action plan" to get restrictions lifted, but the Tories say it must put more pressure on Brussels.

Lobbying

The Meat and Livestock Commission claims the level of BSE in the UK has been reduced to one in every 10,000 cattle.

In Portugal, the figure is one in 7,000, it says, but almost all the restrictions on exports from that country were lifted last month.

Conservative environment spokesman Tim Yeo called on the government to step up pressure on the EU to get the restrictions lifted.

"I want to know how much longer our beef producers are going to be kept waiting by a series of bureaucrats with no proper health or other justifications for preventing exports from returning," he told BBC Radio 4's Farming Today programme.

'Working hard'

He said ministers should also ensure any flaws in the traceability system are "ironed out".

But, he added, this should not be used as an excuse to ban exports.

In a statement, agriculture minister Lord Whitty said: "Clinical cases of BSE are declining at a rate of around 60% a year.

"Our priority is to be able to export beef on the same basis as other member states.

"Our beef controls were inspected by the EU veterinary office earlier this year, which said it wanted to see improvements in our cattle tracing system.

"We have produced an action plan and are working hard to make these improvements."




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