- European Union farm ministers are set to meet this week amid
calls for tougher measures to combat the mad cow disease crisis
gripping the continent and starting to ripple around the
Governments, struggling to cope with plunging consumer
confidence in beef, will debate on Monday whether they should
extend compulsory testing of cattle for the brain-wasting
disorder to younger animals and ban potentially dangerous meat
cuts such as T-bone steak.
EU officials said the discussions follow the latest advice
from the EU's top scientists, who recommended a ban on
mechanically recovered meat, tough treatment of animal fats and
the removal of spinal columns from the food chain in some
Commission spokeswoman Beate Gminder said on Friday the EU
executive would also report on how member states had coped with
the compulsory testing of older cattle for mad cow disease if
destined for the food chain and the disposal of meat-based
animal feed, banned for six months.
``But there would be no specific proposals,'' she added.
EU diplomats said some countries, notably Germany and
Austria, may press for the feed ban to be extended, perhaps
But EU Farm Commissioner Franz Fischler said this week a
permanent ban on such feed would only make economic sense if it
also applied to imported meat. This could raise international
trade problems if the ban was not properly justified by science,
GERMANY LOWERS CATTLE AGE, FRANCE WANTS AID
Germany, which has detected 20 cases of the disease since
November, announced on Friday it would unilaterally drop the age
limit on cattle that have to be tested from 30 to 24 months.
EU officials said it was still unclear whether that would be
adopted on an EU-wide basis.
``We have to reflect over the next weeks whether or not 30
months is an appropriate age for tests,'' Gminder said.
Ministers are due to discuss mad cow disease, also known as
BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), over lunch on Monday,
before moving on to other topics at the one-day meeting.
But EU diplomats noted there was a lot of ground to cover for
purely a lunch discussion.
French Farm Minister Jean Glavany wrote to Fischler this
week, saying the crisis was of an unprecedented magnitude and
was certain to last.
He asked for a range of fresh measures, including a
prolongation of the six-month ``purchase for destruction''
scheme, which gives farmers the option of having their older
cattle destroyed if no BSE tests are available.
The voluntary scheme, 70 percent funded from EU coffers,
offers farmers a near market price.
Glavany reaffirmed his request for more EU direct aid for
farmers hit by the crisis and for extra payments to boost the
growing of protein-rich crops to relace meat-based animal feed.
Earlier on Friday the U.N. world food body urged countries
around the world to act to reduce the risk of