just-food.com heard this morning that Italy has banned French beef imports, and trucks are backed up at the border with no apparent prospect of entry. The ban applies solely to older French cows (18 months and over) and to French beef on the bone, but the impact is currently generalised. Trucks from all supplier countries, regardless of origin, are backed up at the border as rigorous checking procedures are put in place.

Other countries are becoming increasingly concerned that the ban will put pressure on their own exports. In 1999 Italy imported 25,000 tons of beef from Denmark and 82,000t from France. Denmark sends 25 trucks to Italy every week to deliver about 500 tons of meat. Danish Crown is getting worried as Italy is its most important export market for calf and young bull exports – half of their exports of these normally goes to Italy. While this is not the type of meat the Italians are most concerned about, there could be a downstream impact on the whole product range.

It is reported to be the Italian wholesalers and retailers that have spearheaded calls for a ban on beef and calf meat imports, because they have been sensitised by what has happened in France. They will not buy imported beef, since the shops cannot sell it. They are said to be recommending that Italian consumers buy Italian meat.

Meanwhile, relatives of two French victims of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, the human form of BSE, are suing the French and British governments for failing to take sufficient measures to halt the spread of BSE. They are also suing the European Commission.

This comes as a further blow to the French government in particular, which long considered itself at safety from the devastating consequences of BSE, but which last month fuelled a widespread panic when junior health minister Dominique Gillot warned the public that many more cases of vCJD were inevitable (Read: “FRANCE: Panic spreads as health minister warns of CJD deaths”).