The city council here has taken the "mad cow" baton from Paris and seized and incinerated 660lb of beef from the Spanish capital's Hard Rock CafČ (Tunku Varadarajan writes). The Irish beef had passed through a London warehouse, which made it "potentially unfit for human consumption", said SimŪn ViŅals, Madrid's health councillor. "The rules prohibit the import of British beef, so we had to take action ... even though the meat was Irish." Legal proceedings have been started against the restaurant which, in order to stay open, is serving only Spanish meat. The Hard Rock CafČ in Paris was closed earlier this month for selling beef which it said was Irish.
PARIS-- French authorities shut down the Hard Rock Cafe in Paris on Wednesday after accusing the popular tourist spot of serving British beef, which has been banned because of mad cow disease. In a written statement, the Hard Rock confirmed the closure but said it had proved to authorities that the 660 pounds of beef were from Ireland and therefore unaffected by the prohibition. It said the beef merely passed through Britain.
The Paris police department acknowledged the beef was of Irish origin, but said the Agriculture Ministry nonetheless judged the meat to be "illicit" and closed the restaurant for 15 days. Police did not elaborate. The Hard Rock, an international chain of restaurants with outlets in New York, Tokyo, London and other cities, said it would appeal the ruling.
The government recently has come under heavy pressure from cattle breeders who accuse it of laxness in protecting the reputation of French beef. The breeders have been conducting their own inspections, pulling over trucks to check for British beef. The European Union imposed the beef ban after British authorities in March acknowledged a possible link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy -- dubbed mad cow disease -- and a deadly brain illness in humans called Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease.
Fourteen people -- 12 Britons and two Frenchmen -- have reportedly died from CJD. French Veterinary Services agents, part of the police department, found the 600 pounds of beef during a routine inspection of the Hard Rock's kitchen Oct. 28.
Agriculture Minister Philippe Vasseur said the restaurant's closure was only a first step, adding that the Paris outlet could face additional penalties. The Hard Rock called the decision "totally unjustified." "The meat has proved to be Irish beef killed and cut in Ireland," the restaurant chain said in a statement. "The meat was transformed into hamburgers in Great Britain before being transported to France ... and does not break in any manner the European ban on importing British beef."
A FURIOUS "mad cow" row erupted in France yesterday after police claimed to have discovered more than 600lb of banned British beef at the Hard Rock Café in Paris. Although the restaurant hotly denied the charges, fears of la viande anglaise (English meat) swept through the French media. The restaurant insisted that the beef was from Ireland, legally imported and entirely safe for human consumption.
Paris health inspectors discovered the hamburger meat "with a stamp indicating an English origin" during a routine inspection at the American-style restaurant on the Boulevard Montmartre last Monday. The Hard Rock Café said that the Irish beef had merely passed through a processing centre in England dealing entirely with Irish products before being shipped to France.
Pierluigi Capello, director of the café, said all the necessary paperwork, including certificates of origin and export permits to prove that the meat was entirely legal, had been faxed to the Paris authorities. "The Hard Rock Café has favoured Irish meat for a long time now in all its European outlets because of its high quality," the company said in a statement.
But the Paris prefecture announced that legal moves to shut down the Hard Rock Café had been set in train due to "the grave risks to public health that could be created". The restaurant was ordered to provide documents proving the origin of the beef within four days.
"There is no possibility that the city authorities will close us down," M Capello said yesterday as French television crews and journalists milled around the restaurant. France led the worldwide ban on British beef last March, and sales of beef in France have since dropped by almost a third. After the announcement this week that a second possible case of the new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease had been iden tified in France, fears of catching it from eating infected beef have reached new levels.
"Alert over banned beef" declared a headline across the front page of France-Soir newspaper last night, which gave a warning of "clandestine underground beef smuggling". Jean Jarnet, head of veterinary services at Paris police headquarters, said: "This was British meat, minced, but we are in the process of carrying out analyses to determine whether or not there is brain tissue in it."
A spokesman for the city's veterinary service said: "In June 1995 we already had problems of identification concerning food distributed by this food chain." The London Fresh Burger Company, a subsidiary of the Acacia meat company based in Suffolk, delivers half a ton of hamburgers to the Hard Rock Café in Paris every week. A spokesman for the company insisted yesterday that the meat was entirely Irish in origin.
Since the beef ban was imposed on March 21, there has been only one significant case of illegal British beef in France when a company restaurant was found to have some 80lb of British calf liver. Customers and tourists at the Hard Rock Café appeared thoroughly bemused by the row yesterday, but many could be seen tucking into the restaurant's staple fare of hamburger and chips while watching the music videos.
Robert Mallander, a British technical writer living in Paris, said that the allegations of illegal beef imports were not going to affect his diet. "I've eaten so much already, it's too late," he said. Mr Mallander, however, was eating chicken.
1. BSE cases to date (numbers in brackets are those in animals imported from the UK): Denmark 1 (1), France 25 (0), Germany 4 (4), Ireland 147 (approx 30), Italy 2 (2), Portugal 47 (7), Switzerland 225 (0). Other countries with imported cases of BSE from the UK are Canada, The Falkland Islands and Oman. One case (at least) in the UK was imported from the EU.
2. The Swiss epidemic has closely paralleled that in GB, about 2 or 3 years behind. It is now plateauing or even beginning to decline. In EU states with significant domestic BSE (Ireland, France, Portugal) the course has been different, with a roughly constant number of cases for several years but a significant increase in this year.
3. The recent Vetinary Record article compared the herds of origin and birth cohorts of the (approx) 58,000 pure breeding cattle exported from the UK in 1985-90, estimating that there should have been 1,670 cases of BSE as compared with the 40 or so declared.
4. In the UK we have about 50 animals a week slaughtered as BSE suspects which on post-mortem turn out to have other conditions: hypomagnesaemia, brain tumours, etc., which produce similar symptoms. Thus since 1990 approximately 15,000 such cases have been reported in the UK, as opposed (for instance) to 151 in France.
These discrepancies are large enough to suggest that they may have interesting explanations.
A FIT and healthy father who contracted Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease probably died through exposure to BSE-infected meat, an inquest found yesterday. Maurice Callaghan, 30, a mechanical engineer and a basketball enthusiast, died of a new variant of the brain disease last November after a nine-month illness.
John Leckey, the Belfast Coroner, told the inquest that, while he could not go any further than putting the cause of death down to the disease, he agreed with expert opinion that it was linked to exposure to BSE. He said: "It may be that there really are no other viable candidates and BSE is the front runner. But I believe it would be wrong for me to state that as a fact when the experts did not."
Professor James Ironside, one of the authors of new research linking the disease to BSE, told the inquest that in all probability Mr Callaghan's death was linked to exposure to BSE, but he said that there was as yet no direct evidence to confirm this. "We researchers are fairly confident that BSE is at the root of the new variant. In the light of new evidence, it is most likely that it is linked to exposure to BSE before the offal ban was introduced in 1989," he said.
Mr Callaghan's widow, Clare, told the inquest that her husband, once a keen sportsman, had deteriorated into a helpless invalid. He had been a fit and healthy man, and keen basketball player, who ate red meat two or three times a week.
She said that in the last stages of his illness her husband was unable to speak. He had no idea what was happening around him, and he needed continuous care. After the inquest, the family welcomed the findings of Professor Ironside and the coroner. Mrs Callaghan said: "We are very satisfied. In coded words he has said it was likely that Maurice died due to exposure to BSE. As a family, we need to discuss where we will take this from here. We need to take stock and discuss it."
She said that she hoped firmer evidence would soon be available to confirm the link, and joined the coroner in calling for a test for CJD to be developed as a matter of urgency. No verdict was recorded: Unlike inquests elsewhere in the UK, inquests in Northern Ireland end with a summary from the coroner of the circumstances and most likely cause of death.
BRITAIN appeared last night to be shifting away from its refusal to start the selected cattle cull agreed at the European Union summit in Florence in June.
Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, spoke of the possibility of implementing the slaughter, estimated at about 150,000 animals, after trying to put Britain's case, along with four other British ministers, in Luxembourg yesterday. "We haven't ruled out the cull and it may take place," he said. First, it was necessary to deal with the backlog of cattle aged over 30 months.
Britain wants the EU beef embargo lifted from certified herds which have had no contact with BSE-infected cattle. These are mostly in Northern Ireland and Scotland. The European Commission has been encouraging Britain to adopt a regional approach, and Ivan Yates, the Irish Farm Minister who chairs the EU agricultural council, said he thought the EU could accept a partial implementation of a selective cull in Ulster.
Britain is reluctant to accept a regional approach, which could provoke political trouble at home and set a bad precedent for the lifting of the overall ban. Beef producers in Scotland and Northern Ireland have suffered badly from the closure of export markets and say they could meet conditions for easing the ban without difficulty.
Of the mainly grass-fed herds in Northern Ireland, 93 per cent have never had a case of BSE. In Scotland, at least 85 per cent are untainted by the disease. Nearly 60 per cent of herds in England have had at least one case of BSE. Farmers in Scotland and Northern Ireland say they should be allowed to press ahead with the cull, to restart exports.