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Chefs weigh up BSE fears

Roux
Roux: Support for British beef during BSE crisis  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- As beef is removed from school canteens in France and sales slump at meat markets, one of the country's top chefs says he is considering removing French beef from his kitchens.

Alain Ducasse, the only chef in the world to have six Michelin stars, has said he may not buy French following a surge in the number of cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, which is linked to the brain-wasting Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) in humans.

Ducasse, who holds three of the stars for Restaurant Alain Ducasse in Paris and three for the Louis XV-Alain Ducasse restaurant in Monaco, told CNN.com: "I do not like not knowing (the health risks), and in principle favour caution.

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Chef Michel Roux comments on British and French beef

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 REFERENCE
The spread of CJD The spread of CJD
  •  BSE cases in Europe
  •  Analysis: The UK crisis
  •  A family's nightmare
  •  The cross-species killer
  •  Timeline: Crisis unfolds
  •  Top French chef reacts

  ALSO
 

"In the absence of scientific certainties, the final decision on whether to eat beef must belong to us, the consumers."

The famous Ritz hotel in Paris has already removed beef from the menus of its five restaurants in response to the BSE scare -- although a spokeswoman said that if a customer specially requested it, beef may be served.

Meanwhile, popular family restaurant chain Buffalo Grill, which has 215 outlets in France, is looking to increase its exotic selection of meats such as buffalo and ostrich, having removed beef ribs from its eateries.

The company is also to source more of its meat from South America.

Marketing manager Michel Kosossey said the measures had been taken purely in response to media reports and the political storm and the company did not believe there was a real risk to diners.

"There is no more danger this week than two weeks ago and we believe a lot less risk than a year ago."

He added that scientific studies showed: "there is more risk in driving in your car on the way to the restaurant."

But on the other side of the Channel in the UK, where the BSE crisis first unfolded, the patron chef of London's two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche said customers had never been put off -- in fact, quite the opposite.

"Customers requested British beef. There was a lot of support for it, they thought they were 'doing their bit'," Michel Roux told CNN.com Europe.

He said the restaurant purchases Angus beef, a British breed, and with the British government's recent lifting of a ban on beef served on the bone, the ribs are proving extremely popular with customers.

But Roux does believe the scare has changed eating habits irrevocably.

"I doubt very much we will get back to the heyday of roast beef every Sunday or oxtail stews and what-not. I think that they're gone unfortunately," he said.

On recent visits to France, he said he had sensed a total lack of confidence in the agricultural sector and mistrust of the government over the issue.



RELATED STORIES:
Jospin tries to soothe 'mad cow psychosis'
November 9, 2000
Where now mad cow?
October 30, 2000
'Mad cow' report criticizes British officials
October 26, 2000

RELATED SITES:
World Health Organisation: Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSE)
Human BSE Foundation

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