Last week, France announced the suspension of animal-based feed for all livestock and the banning of T-bone steaks as part of a series of measures to reduce the spread of mad cow disease. In fact all bone in cuts of beef have been banned.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said the temporary ban on the use of animal-based feeds for all livestock - including fish, chicken and pork - would take effect Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2000. Mr. Jospin also said that T-bone steaks, a cut that harbors potential risks because it is near the bone, were being banned immediately in France.

Unless amended, the ban will outlaw such cuts as rib of beef, T-bone steak and oxtail. Anyone caught selling such items will be guilty of an offence punishable in a magistrates' court by a fine of up to £5,000 and/or up to six months in jail; or up to two years' jail and/or an unlimited fine in a Crown Court. Since Dr. Cunningham's announcement, customers keen to fill their freezers before the ban takes effect have cleared butchers' shops of ribs of beef, always popular in the run-up to Christmas, and oxtails.

He announced a series of other measures to protect the food chain from bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease. The brain-wasting ailment is suspected by scientists to be linked to a similar human malady, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Two deaths from the disease are known in France, compared to more than 80 in Britain, where mad cow disease hit in 1996. Public concern has heightened since it was revealed last month that potentially infected meat had made it to supermarket shelves before being hastily withdrawn.

Dr. Cunningham took his decision after receiving the results of new research by the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee, the scientific body set up to advise the Government. This showed evidence of BSE ("mad cow" disease) infectivity in dorsal root ganglia, nervous tissue in the bones of the spinal column of cattle, which is left with the bone when meat is cut off the spine. Tests also found "provisional" evidence that bone marrow might harbor the BSE agent.

The scientists estimated that no more than three out of the 2.2 million cattle slaughtered for consumption next year might carry infection in their dorsal root ganglia. They said there was a 5-percent chance that one person in the entire population might be infected with BSE by eating beef from these animals.

So even the theoretical chance that anyone eating beef on the bone would contract Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is roughly one in a billion. Realistically, the risk is even smaller than that since BSE infection was found only in cattle over the age of 30 months, which have been banned from human consumption for more than a year.