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Saturday, October 23, 1999 Published at 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK

UK: Scotland

France 'risks BSE crisis'

Prof Pennington warned of a 're-run' of the BSE crisis

A leading scientist has warned that France could face a BSE-type crisis after it emerged that French farmers fed sewage to livestock.

BBC Scotland reporter Christine Jardine: "The controversy has switched to French beef"
Professor Hugh Pennington, who led the inquiry into an outbreak of E.coli O157 outbreak in central Scotland which claimed a record number of lives, said the French method was a "classic" means of disease transmission.

The Aberdeen-based bacteriologist also launched a strong attack on the French Government, accusing it of hypocrisy.

[ image: Prof Pennington: Attack on French]
Prof Pennington: Attack on French
Prof Pennington criticised France's continued refusal to lift the ban on British beef after the BSE scare in the UK and said that meat from this country was now amongst the safest in the world.

The British Government has decided not to ban French beef following the disclosure of the practice in a European Union report.

However, when asked about the implications of the sewage scandal, Prof Pennington told the BBC: "This could be a re-run of the BSE problem, which started because we were recycling dead beef into beef.

"Clearly, the material that these animals have been getting is potentially full of nasty bugs.

"It is a classic way of spreading disease by actually eating manure, not to put too fine a point on it.

"It may well have been satisfactorily controlled and the bugs 'may' have been killed stone dead three times over - but to be safe they would `have' to be killed three times over."

Animal feed

The professor expressed "doubts" about whether the production of animal feed with ingredients including animal and human sewage was properly supervised, and said it was an "inherently dangerous" practice.

He accused the French of intransigence over refusing to lift the ban on sales of British beef because of alleged lingering safety concerns.

[ image: Potential for
Potential for "nasty bugs"
France took the decision despite an announcement in August by the European Union that the ban should be lifted.

Prof Pennington said: "My own view is that the French refusing to take British beef is 99% politics. It does make you very angry because we have in this country an extremely good case that our meat is now the safest in the world.

"For anybody to challenge that when they have their own problems - and not just this particular issue because the French have BSE as well - is quite out of order."

The professor said he would actively avoid meat from France.

He said: "My advice to anybody when they are buying beef is to buy British - it is of extremely high quality and tastes good as well. Now I feel I know more about what has been going on, I would not buy French."

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