How France hid its own mad cow disease epidemic

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By Ian Sparks

Last updated at 11:12 PM on 06th November 2008

The scale of France's mad cow disease epidemic has been laid bare in a report from scientists.

The revelation that BSE was rife in France in the early 1990s comes a decade after its illegal ban on British beef drove many UK farmers into bankruptcy.

The study was ordered by a Paris judge investigating why nine French citizens died from variant Creuzfeldt-Jakob disease, the human form of BSE, between 1996 and 2006.

It found that their lives could have been saved if the French government had done more to prevent the spread of the disease after its discovery in 1986.

Beef controversy: French scientists have launched a stinging attack on their own government over the handling of mad cow disease in the 1990s

Officials had insisted then that French beef was safe to consume.

The study, published yesterday, noted BSE was officially first detected in Britain in 1986 and steps taken in this country to combat it.

However, a French law in 1990 stating that farmers must declare any BSE found in their cattle came 'several years too late'.

The report also exposes the hypocrisy of France's insistence that during the 1990s British herds were riddled with mad cow disease, while French beef was safe to eat.

The EU finally lifted a trade embargo on British beef in 1999, after years of trade sanctions.

France continued with an illegal ban on our meat for another seven years.



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