GENTECH archive 8.96-97

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eu presses members to improve food labelling




      EU presses members to improve food safety

      BRUSSELS, The Reuters World Service via
      Individual Inc. : European Farm
      Commissioner Franz Fischler has asked
      member states what they are doing to
      improve food safety following the mad cow
      disease health scare, a European Commission
      spokesman said on Wednesday.

      Fischler, smarting after being stripped of
      some of his food safety powers and anxious
      to show a critical European Parliament that
      public health protection is a priority,
      also asked in a letter if they were
      implementing new meat and bone meal
      processing rules.

      ``Many member states are unable to meet the
      conditions. It would be surprising if any
      country is 100 percent in the clear,''
      Commission agriculture spokesman Gerard
      Kiely said.

      Last month a report by EU veterinary
      inspectors exposed widespread deficiencies
      in tackling the fatal cattle brain wasting
      disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy
      (BSE).

      Member states will be expected to respond
      this month and those that fail to implement
      the new meat and bone meal rendering
      standards that entered into force on April
      1 could end up in court, Kiely said.

      The new rules involve processing at higher
      temperatures and for longer periods to
      eradicate all possible BSE infection.

      Infected meat and bone meal mixed into
      cattle and sheep feed is believed to be the
      main cause of the spread of BSE.
      In February the European Parliament, which
      has attacked the Commission for putting
      beef producers' interests before public
      health, gave the EU's executive until
      November to improve its track record or
      face possible dismissal.

      Emma Bonino, the EU's energetic and
      combative consumer affairs commissioner,
      was given the task of improving food safety
      and ensuring that anti-BSE measures were
      properly enforced.

      The appointment was part of a strategy to
      separate responsibility for drafting and
      implementing food safety rules, previously
      held by Farm Commissioner Fischler.

      However Fischler, who hails from an
      Austrian alpine village, has always prided
      himself on championing the interests of
      small farmers and environmentally friendly
      production methods.

      As part of the campaign to strengthen his
      food safety credentials, he plans shortly
      to introduce proposals for the compulsory
      labelling of all genetically modified
      animal feed.

      BSE, which wrecked the beef market and is
      expected to cost the EU more than five
      billion ecus ($5.6 billion) in compensation
      and corrective measures by the end of 1998,
      has been blamed on intensive production
      methods and relaxation of meat production
      rules. REUTER@