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EU ban on animal parts upsetting Greek appetites

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Eyes, spleens, entrails part of traditional cooking

September 28, 1997
Web posted at: 6:09 p.m. EDT (2209 GMT)

From Reporter Anthee Carassava

ATHENS, Greece (CNN) -- Greek cooks and butchers are out of sorts because of a decision by the European Union to ban the sale of animal eyes, brains, spleens and assorted other parts not usually thought of as food.

The EU says the new policy, which is scheduled to go into effect January 1, will help combat the spread of "mad-cow disease," bovine spongiform encephalopathy. An outbreak of the brain-wasting disease in Britain has been traced to feeding sheep parts to cows.

vxtreme CNN's Anthee Carrasava reports

Once in effect, slaughterhouses across the continent will have to destroy the brains, eyes, spinal cords and spleens of cattle, sheep and goats older than 12 months of age.

But some of the very ingredients the EU wants to ban are staples in traditional Greek cooking.

"We were born eating this stuff," huffs one Greek housewife. "Why should we change our habits? To please the appetites of these European officials? Never."

Lamb heads and stuffed spleens grace the table of nearly every Greek taverna. Soups made from the innards of sheep are common meals and have a place at Greek Easter feasts. And kokoretsi -- diced offal wrapped in sheep intestines -- is a national hors d'oeuvre.

Even the eyes of lambs are cherished as a favorite finger-licking treat, often plucked from the baked head by the eater.

Butchers and government officials claim the ban is unfair because no Greek animal products have ever been linked to mad-cow disease. The government plans to seek an exemption from the ban.

Should that fail, many Greeks say they'll just keep on eating as they have -- they'll just dine on the sly.


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