Concern over the impact a widespread outbreak of blue tongue disease in the Balkans could have on the western and central European meat industry has led the European Commission to ban animal imports from Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Yugoslavia.

Sheep, goats, cattle and wild ruminants, together with their semen, embryos and ova, will be refused entry to the EU.

Blue tongue, a highly contagious viral disease of domestic and wild ruminants that is transmitted by insects, has been recently detected in Bulgaria and Greece.

The ban on movements, which already applies to shipments from Greece,
Corsica, the Balearics and parts of Italy, also covers animals passing through the countries named. Blue tongue does not affect humans.

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By Alan Osborn, correspondent