France bans beef on bone

PARIS- (AP) France is banning T-bone steaks and suspending the use of livestock feed containing meat as part of a series of measures to reduce the possible spread of mad cow disease.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin has said the moratorium on the use of animal-based feeds for all livestock-including fish, chicken and porkwould take effect on Wednesday. A decision on a full ban would be made once the French agency for food safety assesses possible risks associated with such feeds. That could take three to four months.

Jospin also said that T-bone steaks, a cut that harbours potential risks because it is near the bone, were being banned in France.

An initial opponent of a ban on animal-based feeds, the socialist prime minister had been under growing pressure since President Jacques Chirac, a conservative, called last week for a total ban on such feeds.

France banned the use of animal-based feed for cows in 1990 and other ruminants six years later. Today, only chicken, pork and farm-raised fish are allowed to be brought up on animal-based feeds.

It is the risk of cross-contamination of feeds for cows from feeds authorized for chickens, pork and farm that the French government is seeking to eliminate.

Fears of mad cow disease have surged recently in France following more cases of the disease among cattle. Numerous school districts have taken beef off cafeteria menus.

Scientists have held out a possible link between mad cow disease and a similar brain-wasting human disease.

Jospin reiterated what he has said were the potential dangers posed by stocking and burning the feed in question, and explained why he would not issue more than a moratorium until the food agency delivers an expert opinion on the issue.

He said the "temporary and general suspension.appears technically possible and acceptable" from a public health standpoint.

The measure means that more than one million tons of feed must be stocked and incinerated.

According to a poll this weekend by the Ifop agency for LeJournal du Dimanche newspaper, 70 percent of French consumers said they were worried about animal-based feeds, and nearly 80 percent wanted an immediate ban on them.

Only two people are known to have died in France from the human variant of the disease - compared to 81 in Britain - but public concern has rocketed since it was revealed last month that potentially infected meat had made it to supermarket shelves before being hastily withdrawn.

The number of cows found to be suffering from the deadly disease has jumped to more than 80 this year compared to 31 for the whole of last year, as more aggressive and systematic testing of French herds is carried out.