With collective EU action considered insufficient, Italians are taking action to protect themselves against the possible spread of BSE from France. In addition to banning imports of beef susceptible to Mad Cow disease, meat producers have turned vigilante to block trucks suspected of bringing in banned beef from France.

This morning (24 November), protesters fanned out to check entry points from as far as the border roads with Austria on the north-east for fear that some trucks may be trying to enter Italy through a circuitous route. Direct roads from France into Italy in the north-west are already under scrutiny by meat producers.

Italy is sensitive to any development affecting the meat sector, particularly in France: Italy imports 50% of its meat needs and a half of that comes from France.

As a Mad Cow psychosis spreads across the country, beef sales are reported to have fallen by as much as 50-70%, although there have no known cases of BSE among cattle born and raised in Italy. Sales loss is estimated at some Lit100bn and accumulating Lit3bn a day.
As a further precautionary measure, the Italian Health Ministry declared that any Italian who remained in the United Kingdom for over six months during the height of the Mad Cow diseases there is not qualified to donate blood.
Meanwhile, the Government has moved on its own, allocating over Lit100bn for funding stricter controls on beef, as producer associations claim that measures and funding could be increased. It also passed a speedy decree on obligatory labelling of meat including the age of imported animals and their place of origin.
Producers also claim that Italy is paying the price of neglecting its livestock sector and increasing its dependence on imports.

By Hilmi Toros, just-food.com correspondent