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1990: Three countries lift beef export ban

France, West Germany and Italy have lifted a ban on British beef-on-the-bone after reaching a deal in Brussels.

A potential European Community crisis was averted when the principle of fair trade was upheld thanks to the deal reached in a 20-hour meeting.

The deal means beef-on-the-bone can now be exported from any BSE-free farm in Britain and all de-boned beef must carry an export certificate declaring it free from meat from potentially infectious cattle.

Beef from any farm can still be traded in Britain.

The ban on exports was imposed in May as a response to fears over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or "mad cow" disease.

"Many other member states support our decision"

French Agriculture Minister Henri Nallet

UK Agriculture Minister John Gummer said he was delighted to have the backing of the European Commissioners and scientific experts in saying "quite clearly that British beef is safe".

Henri Nallet, the French Agriculture Minister, said he was happy with the outcome.

"I am satisfied with the meeting because the council has recognised the French position and since yesterday I've been able to establish that many other member states support our decision" he said.

But Shadow Agriculture Minister David Clarke criticised the government saying allowing beef not fit for export to be sold in this country would harm consumer confidence in an already hard-hit industry.

He also criticised Mr Gummer saying he had "not even started tackling the fundamental problem of eradicating BSE from our cattle".

The National Farmers Union also took issue with the deal. Their President, Sir Simon Gourlay said farmers whose herds had been infected with BSE would "become second class citizens of the beef industry".

In Context
The BSE crisis reached a peak on 20 March 1996 when the British government acknowledged a link between BSE and CJD, the human form of the degenerative disease first found in British cattle 10 years earlier.

A week later, there was a worldwide ban on all British beef exports. This was lifted in 1999 by all countries except France and Germany. Germany lifted its ban in 2000.

After the EC threatened to impose huge fines, France finally lifted its ban in October 2002 but the ban on live exports remained in place.

In March 2006, the EU finally allowed the UK to export live animals born on or after 1 August 1996, and beef and products from cattle slaughtered after 15 June 2005.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was first identified in 1986.

It was found in the herd of West Sussex farmer Peter Stent, who had contacted vets after he found one of his cows behaving in an abnormal way.

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