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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bovine Affliction Leads to Ban on Britain's Beef

LONDON -- Britain lost its biggest beef export market Thursday as the industry began counting the fallout from evidence that a cattle illness may be linked to a lethal human brain disease.


France banned imports of British beef, so did Belgium, and demand dried up in British cattle markets. Schools in Bedfordshire, Cleveland, Clwyd and Warwickshire counties dropped beef from school lunch menus, as Derbyshire had done Wednesday.


Consumer Initiative, a private consumer group in Germany, called for British beef to be barred. German Health Minister Horst Seehofer said two German scientific institutes have been told to study the British report.


On Wednesday, Health Minister Stephen Dorrell announced that bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow disease," was the most likely explanation for the deaths of 10 Britons from a similar illness. Dorrell said there was no proof of a connection, however, and he said he and his family would continue to eat beef. Prime Minister John Major and opposition Labour Party leader Tony Blair both said Thursday that they were still eating beef.


The French Agriculture Ministry said the British announcement confirmed "new elements as to the risks linked to the consumption of British beef."


Britain shipped 80,000 tons of beef to France last year, worth over ?200 million ($300 million), about 40 percent of the total beef export market, according to the Meat and Livestock Commission.


The decision to ban British beef "allows us to provide all necessary guarantees to French consumers while waiting for more complete information from the [European Union's] scientific experts on the case," French Agriculture Minister Philippe Vasseur said.


Researchers said 10 deaths from Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease were suspected of being linked to mad cow disease. Robert Will, head of the research unit, said the average age of the 10 victims was 27.5 years, compared to 63 years in previous cases of CJD.


The incurable diseases cause holes in brain tissue, disabling and finally killing victims.