Irish firm broke embargo during madcow crisis

19th January 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Jan 19, 2007 (AFP) - A firm in Northern Ireland illegally imported British beef into France in the late 1990s, during an embargo sparked by the "mad cow" crisis, a French police report viewed by AFP Friday alleges.

PARIS, Jan 19, 2007 (AFP) - A firm in Northern Ireland illegally imported British beef into France in the late 1990s, during an embargo sparked by the "mad cow" crisis, a French police report viewed by AFP Friday alleges.

The company, Vanstar Meats, sent the meat to French vendors who put it on the market between 1996 and 1998, in violation of restrictions in place at the time, the report, sent to a Paris judge, said.

The document is part of a body of evidence being compiled by judge Marie-Odile Bertella-Geffroy, who is investigating whether a French chain of steakhouses, Buffalo Grill, illegally and knowingly sold British beef during the embargo.

Police in Northern Ireland, under an international request for assistance issued by Bertella-Geffroy, searched Vanstar Meats's headquarters in the town of Newry in February 2006, the French police report said.

"Invoices seized at that time prove that there was a clear violation of the embargo imposed on beef products," it said.

It added that the company sold beef to several French firms, including one called Raynal Petersen, which did a lot of business with Districoupe, Buffalo Grill's supplier.

Others cited included two firms -- Approval and Gaborit -- which operate at the Rungis market outside Paris that supplies many of the capital's restaurants.

Some 200 people around the world have died or are considered probable cases of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), the human form of mad-cow disease, for which there is no cure and which is always fatal.

More than 150 of the cases have been found in Britain, which was the epicentre of the outbreak in the 1980s and early 1990s of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), as mad-cow disease is called.

The European Union imposed an embargo on British beef in 1996, but even when it lifted it in 1999, France kept its own in place for another year.

At least 20 people have died of vCJD in France since 1996, according to the latest figures from authorities. Several of them ate in Buffalo Grill restaurants.

Four former Buffalo Grill executives, including its founder, Christian Picart, are under criminal investigation over the matter.
 
Copyright AFP

Subject: French News

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