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France urges better beef labelling

mad cow
French beef consumption has fallen amid mad cow fears  

PARIS, France -- The French Government has urged the country's beef industry to label products more clearly in a bid to regain consumer confidence.

Farm Minister Jean Glavany and junior Consumer Affairs Minister Francois Patriat asked French beef producers on Thursday to go beyond the current European Union labelling rules in the wake of mad cow fears.

The call came one day after France's top consumer rights group urged shoppers to boycott beef that was not clearly labelled.

The group, UFC-Que Choisir, called for action over the beef industry's decision to stop labelling beef with the origin, breed, age and sex of the animal.

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The group said beef producers agreed in 1997 to include such details on labels, but that accord had lapsed last September.

It was dropped in favour of an EU-wide labelling system in which the date and place of slaughter are required, but the breed and category of the animal are not.

"Just as everyone is mobilising to get over the crisis, it would be wrong to take a step backwards regarding information that the consumer has the right to expect," the ministers said in a joint statement.

French consumption of beef plunged last year when three supermarket chains said they had sold beef from a herd containing an animal infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad cow disease.

Mad cow disease has killed thousands of cattle across Europe and is believed by scientists to be linked to the human form of the ailment Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

It caused the French Government to ban meat and bone meal in animal feed, take T-bone steaks off menus and institute more stringent health tests for cattle.

The EU has recently imposed an universal testing scheme on animals older than 30 months destined for the food chain as well as a six-month ban on meat-based livestock feed.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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French Government directory
World Health Organisation: BSE and vCJD fact sheet
Human BSE Foundation

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