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Europe draws up BSE battle plan
LONDON, England (CNN) -- European Union Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler has announced to CNN a series of measures that must be taken to restore public faith in beef.
A number of European countries have imposed unilateral beef bans on other nations as concern widens over BSE -- or mad cow disease -- and its human equivalent vCJD.
Confidence in beef products has plummeted across Europe over the last two months since France announced potentially tainted beef may have found its way onto supermarket shelves and the first cases of mad cow disease were identified in Germany.
Fischler's measures comes on top of moves approved by the European Union farm ministers on Monday.
The farm ministers placed a six-month ban on meat and bone products in animal fodder and announced that no cattle over 30-months-old would enter the food chain unless tests showed the animals to be BSE-free.
Fischler told CNN's Tainted Beef programme all meat and bone meal must be destroyed if the ban is to be effective.
He said: "We can restore consumer confidence only if we act in full transparency."
He added that posting on the Internet all reports on the mad cow crisis would also help the EU show the public how the battle against BSE was progressing.
But Fischler appeared to rule out making permanent the ban on fodder containing animal products.
He said: "If we were to introduce a permanent ban we would have to answer many other consequences."
The ban, though, also provides the beef industry with a new problem -- finding enough soya-based product to replace banned ingredients.
CNN's Patricia Kelly said the main source of soya is the U.S., which cannot guarantee GM-free soya. Many retailers in Europe, in response to consumer concerns, insist GM-products are not used.
As concern spreads across Europe beef farmers are being hit by both plunging prices and rising costs.
But Germany's Agriculture Minister Karl-Heinz Funke has said the six-month fodder ban -- due to come into force on January 1, 2001 -- is not long enough to tackle the crisis caused by BSE.
BSE is thought to spread to humans as vCJD disease -- an incurable brain-wasting disease. Two people in France and 80 in Britain have died from vCJD linked to BSE.
The ban on animals over 30 months old would take effect from January and that a scheme to compensate farmers for removing the cattle would be 70 percent funded from the budget of the 15-nation EU.
On Tuesday, Bulgaria announced it was joining a host of other nations in banning imports of beef and beef products from Germany and Spain.
Bulgaria already bans beef imports from the European countries hardest hit by mad cow disease: Britain, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland, France and Belgium.
BSE crisis feed ban 'too short'
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