The economics minister, Pascal Couchepin, has assured consumers that Swiss beef is not affected by mad cow disease (BSE). He said the necessary measures had been in place since 1990 to ensure that beef products in this country were safe.
Couchepin told parliament on Monday that the introduction of a ban on meat-based animal feed from March 2001 was a precautionary measure.
He said the time lapse was necessary to allow breeders to adapt to the new regulations, and warned that it was wrong for consumers or producers to panic about the possibility of meat and bone meal being infected.
Last week, the interior ministry called for a partial ban on the use of meat-based meal as animal feed. The measure will only apply to a ban on meat and bone meal for herbivorous animals.
The government is also setting up a national agency to oversee the application of stricter measures intended to eradicate BSE.
Switzerland's biggest supermarket chains have agreed to carry out tests for BSE on all cows older than 20 months, which are earmarked for food processing. Fears of mad cow disease have resulted in a marked drop in beef saIes over the past few weeks.
swissinfo with agencies