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Germany

EU Demands Answers in German BSE Scare

Hundreds of cattle were slaughtered in Germany in 2003 without undergoing BSE testing, and now the European Union is demanding answers. Meanwhile, the German government expects the number of untested cattle to rise.

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The German government warns the number of untested cattle could rise to over 1000.

In Germany, all cattle over 24 months in age are supposed to tested be for the deadly brain wasting disease BSE, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy. But this week, officials in several German states admitted that authorities failed to conduct BSE tests on over 600 cattle before they were slaughtered. Now, the European Commission wants answers.

EU sources say that Germany faces no immediate consequences for the breakdown in BSE testing. "For now, we're seeing this as an isolated incident," an unnamed EU official told the German financial daily Handelsblatt. However, he said the EU is taking the matter seriously, as Germany has breached EU regulations.

Concern about exports

The Commission has sent information about the lapse in testing to other EU states as part of the EU's early warning system. EU officials have also asked Berlin for information on the whereabouts of the untested beef to determine whether any of it was exported to other EU states. The Commission hasn't set a deadline for the receipt of such information, saying the German authorities need time to complete their investigations.

The state of Bavaria is calling for tighter nationwide BSE checks. Bavaria's minister for consumer affairs, Werner Schnappauf, said all the loopholes in the present system must be closed, and added that anyone found to have deliberately side-stepped the test procedure will face prosecution."It should be clear to everyone that food safety is no laughing matter," Schnappauf said.

Numbers on the rise

Meanwhile, the government expects the number of untested cattle to rise. Deputy Minister for Consumer Protection Alexander Müller said that in addition to the 611 cases already identified, there could be hundreds more, adding that the number could rise to 1,000.

Each of the German states is responsible for ensuring that cattle over the age of 24 months are tested for BSE before slaughter. The German regulations are more stringent than those of the EU, which stipulate that cattle over the age of 30 months be tested.

Germany imposed the regulations in the wake of a BSE crisis in 2001. Scientists say the illness can cause a form of the brain-wasting Creutzfeld Jakob Disease in humans who consume BSE-infected beef products. At least 137 people, mostly in Britain, are reported to have died from the disease.

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  • Date 09.01.2004
  • Author DW staff (dc)
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4XeJ
  • Date 09.01.2004
  • Author DW staff (dc)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4XeJ