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Germany to lift ban on Swiss beef

The German government says it wants to lift a ban on imports of Swiss beef. The health ministry said that last week’s decision to lift the embargo on beef imports from Britain also applied to Switzerland.

This content was published on February 7, 2000 - 17:23

The German government says it wants to lift a ban on imports of Swiss beef. The health ministry said that last week’s decision to lift the embargo on beef imports from Britain also applied to Switzerland.

However, unlike British beef, Swiss beef will not have to carry a label declaring its origin. The decision still needs approval by the German upper house of parliament. The chamber will vote on the measure on March 17.

Under the government’s proposal, the ban on beef and beef products from Switzerland will be lifted, but the embargo on imports of live cattle, Switzerland’s main money-earner before the ban, will remain in place.

About 40 countries imposed bans on Swiss beef, beef by-products, dairy goods or cows at the height of the scare surrounding mad cow disease, or BSE, in 1996. Many are still in place today.

Heinz Müller, spokesman for the Swiss federal veterinary office, said the Swiss authorities had not been informed of Berlin’s decision. However, he said that, if confirmed, it would be a welcome development.

“We are very happy about any weakening of the embargo,” he said. “It’s a good sign.”

He said Italy, Spain and France all relaxed their bans on meat imports last year, and that the German move would be an additional welcome move towards a general relaxation of the measures against Switzerland. But he added that the real breakthrough would come when exports of live cattle were allowed again.

“Before the bans, Switzerland exported 12,000 to 15,000 cattle a year,” he said, “but that has dwindled to a trickle.”

The embargo on Swiss beef was imposed in the wake of fears about whether BSE could be transferred to humans. In 1995, Switzerland reported 68 cases of mad cow disease, the highest incidence of the disease in mainland Europe. However, the number of cases in Switzerland was well below Britain’s 15,000 in the same year.

From staff and wire reports

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