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Discussions with Britain about mad cow disease

Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton spoke with British counterpart Nick Brown this morning about measures taken by New Zealand against European beef imports.

Mr Sutton made the call on the basis of the good personal relationship between the two ministers and the fact that these broader measures were relevant to the ban on British beef which has been in place for some time.

Mr Sutton said he told Mr Brown that the suspension of imports would be in place till New Zealand and Australia had a certification scheme up and running.

The certification scheme would provide additional assurances on the safety of beef products entering New Zealand. Mr Sutton said it was expected to take some weeks to get a scheme in place.

The total ban on beef and beef products from European countries would remain till then.

"The British are naturally concerned about the length of time a full ban will remain in place."

Mr Sutton said the key was to strike the right balance between science and public concern.

The two ministers agreed to keep in touch on the issue.

ENDS

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