EU considers tighter BSE controls
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- An extension of compulsory testing for mad cow disease to include younger cattle will be one of the key items discussed by EU farm ministers on Monday.
Ministers will also be looking at whether to ban beef-on-the-bone.
David Byrne, EU Health Commissioner, will be showing how measures to combat mad cow have progressed among the 15 EU nations and how animal welfare and transport, as well as simplified payments to small farmers, can be improved.
Under current EU regulations cattle older than 30 months destined for the food chain have to be tested for the brain-wasting condition bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
Scientists believe a link exists between BSE and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in humans.
In a separate move Finland has become the latest country to ban blood donations by people who have lived in Britain for at least six months in the 1980s or early 1990s.
The measure, which comes into effect on April 1, 2001, follows nine other countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy and France.
Juhani Leikola, head of the Finnish Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service said: "This is an extreme cautionary measure, which has been decided upon because Finland is a 'clean country' regarding mad cow disease, and the only theoretically possible threat regarding the human form of it could be blood."
EU farm ministers gathering for Monday's meeting have already been told that the additional 1 billion euros put aside earlier this month to deal with BSE is all they can expect from central coffers as there is no more money.
Germany pre-empted any decision on the age for testing when it decided to test all cattle aged 24 months and over.
Germany is also deciding whether to slaughter 400,000 cattle under an EU plan to fight mad cow disease, Consumer Protection and Farm Minister Renate Kuenast said on Friday.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has indicated it would be difficult for Germany to exclude itself from the EU-wide "purchase for destruction" plan under which two million cattle are to be culled to maintain beef prices hit by the mad cow scare.
Sonnleitner said he hoped Germany would proceed with the slaughter of the 400,000 cattle, which would offer farmers near market price in compensation. Seventy percent of the cost will be funded by the EU.
Farmers get less compensation from periodic slaughter of cows in preventive mad cow measures such as in Rendsburg and Muecheln.
Fiorentina steak under threat
Italy will be looking for a compromise to save the T-bone steak, a speciality in parts of the country.
Italian newspapers reported that ministers would ask for some cuts of meat, such as T-bone steaks, to be banned only if the cow is over 20-months-old.
The papers have been full of reports about the risk of the Fiorentina, the Tuscan T-bone steak, being banned.
The possibility has been reported as little short of a national disaster.
Italy's Fiorentina is made from cuts from cattle between 17- and 22-months-old.
France has banned beef-on-the-bone, and Italy banned imports of beef-on-the-bone from France last November.
The German Government, which has been shaken by the mad cow scare, has no official ban on beef-on-the-bone but it advises consumers to use discretion and trust their butcher.
Two weeks ago Italy confirmed its first case of mad cow disease since 1994 and the first ever in an Italian-bred cow. The Health Ministry revealed on Monday that tests on a second suspected case proved negative.
EU officials said Monday's discussions would 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 cases.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Experts seek to soothe mad cow fears
Institutions of the European Union
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