France faces mountain of animal waste after ban
PARIS - France will have to destroy more than three times as many animal carcasses as it does now after banning animal feed products to ease consumer fears about mad cow disease, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said yesterday.
Jospin announced a ban on the sale of T-bone steaks and the use of meat and bone meal in all animal feed as precautionary steps against the spread of the disease, pending research by national food safety agency AFSSA.
But the ban has raised a new set of problems as a sharp rise in the incineration of animal carcasses could belch pollutants like dioxin into the air and create a more serious hazard than the health risk of the feed.
The ban meant slaughterhouses would have to destroy a total of 740,000 tonnes of the dusty brown meat and bone meal and 275,000 tonnes of fat per year, Jospin told a news conference.
"Of this total, 130,000 tonnes representing hazardous tissues removed at the abattoir are already destroyed by incineration," he said. "870,000 tonnes per year of extra meal and fat will therefore have to be stocked and destroyed."
Unions representing butchers and animal feed makers estimate the annual cost of Tuesdays measure will be close to five billion francs ($650 million).
Jospin said the cost was still being studied but would probably total several billion francs.
"The finance and farm ministers will prepare, in consultation with all sector participants, the financing terms of these measures," the prime minister said.
GREENS ADDRESS DIOXIN CONCERNS
Addressing the problem of capacity constraints, Jospin said outside contractors could incinerate an extra 486,000 tonnes of meal and 40,000 tonnes of fat in the short term.
"Additional capacities estimated at around 350,000 tonnes should be mobilised by June 2001. Beyond that, other incineration capacities must be studied," he said.
In the meantime, the problem was finding warehouses to stock the meal and fat without creating a danger to human health or the environment.
The government has already found additional storage capacities for around 200,000 tonnes of meal and was searching for other storage sites, said Jospin. Defence Minister Alain Richard has proposed commandeering some military sites.
Environment Minister Dominique Voynet said all sites would have to pass strict sanitary and environmental criteria.
"We must respect specific storage conditions in order to avoid the risk of heating of the meal stock and perhaps of fire," she said. "We will therefore be very demanding on the choice of sites."
Voynet, a member of the Green Party in Jospins left-wing coalition government, also sought to reassure the public on the possible emission of dioxins, saying the toxic chemical was produced mainly by old incinerators.
"If we must build new facilties to eliminate meat and bone meal, it will be by definition incinerators which perfectly respect European norms and therefore do not emit dioxin," the minister told reporters.
Story by Emmanuel Jarry
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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