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Geneva bans beef from school canteens

Beef has been taken off the menu for primary and nursery schools in Geneva

(Keystone)

The city of Geneva has banned all beef from school canteens after parents raised concerns about mad cow disease or BSE. The municipal authorities said the suspension would last until they were assured of the quality of beef in Switzerland.

"The ban is a purely precautionary measure in response to the grave concern raised by parents," Philippe d'Espine, spokesman for the City of Geneva authorities, said.

Kindergartens and primary schools will not be serving beef to children from Friday until further notice. D'Espine said the decision affects between 10,000 and 20,000 children.

He said parents in the French-speaking city were not targeting beef originating from any particular country. However, concerns in France over the new human strain of mad cow disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD), have "spilled over" into Switzerland.

Municipal authorities were seeking more information about the quality of beef products in Switzerland before putting it back on the menu, he said.

Fears are growing in France about beef potentially infected by mad cow disease, or BSE, after a number of new cases emerged. Several schools there have also banned beef from school meals.

The Federal Veterinary Office has distanced itself from the decision. Its spokesman, Heinz Müller, told swissinfo that they had "not recommended" the suspension.

"If the government had thought that meat or meat products were dangerous, they would have banned it completely. But since we think meat products in Switzerland are not dangerous, there is no reason to ban it," Müller said.

Müller said that to date no meat for human consumption has been found to be contaminated with BSE and that there was "no reason to panic."

Suspicion of French beef products has recently increased. Russia, Poland, Hungary and Spain have either reduced their imports or stopped them altogether.

On Wednesday, the Swiss Red Cross announced that people who have spent time in Britain are to be banned from donating blood in Switzerland. Again, the decision was prompted by fears that supplies could be contaminated by blood contaminated with CJD.

Nearly 80 people have died in Britain from the so-called new variant, CJD.

swissinfo

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