A day after Italy's first human case of suspected mad cow disease, the European Parliament has demanded new EU powers to help prevent the consumption of contaminated meat, reports Reuters.
The Parliament said many countries had not implemented EU rules designed to ensure the food chain is protected from mad cow disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).
The resolution passed demands that the European Commission should have the power to fine those countries failing to act when consumers are at risk. Any new powers would have to be approved by the EU's 15 member states.
"I think we should take warning from the new case in Italy and try to convince member countries to implement EU legislation as soon as possible," said Swedish liberal Karl Erik Olsson, author of the non-binding resolution.
A 25-year-old woman in Sicily is being treated for a suspected case of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD), the human form of the brain-wasting mad cow disease.
Olsson said the long-planned vote was not prompted by the Italian case but the news had highlighted the problem.
He added that mad cow disease was occurring in new countries across Europe even though a ban on feeding meat-and-bone meal to cows and sheep had been in effect since 1994. Feeding bone meal to animals can spread the disease.
The resolution said recent cases in Denmark and Finland showed the need to "take the necessary steps to ensure that animal feed cannot be contaminated" with mad cow disease.
It noted that: "The single most important measure for protecting consumers in the long term is to completely eliminate the risk of further animals becoming infected with" mad cow disease.
In Italy, government and industry officials sought to reassure the public that there was no risk. "Our meat has never been as safe as it is today," Luigi Scordamalia, secretary general of Italy's Association of Meat Producers said.
However in an interview with Reuters, Olsson said: "Some people say we do not have to worry any more, but if we now see Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, it shows the disease has come from somewhere. I understand the food suppliers will say they are safe and I hope they have followed all the restrictions."
If the European Commission got new powers, it could act to force countries to comply with existing law, he said.