LONDON: The stew over British beef continues to boil at a furious rate. Following lengthy debate over the weekend, the British Parliament decided that no new action need be taken to curb the spread of "mad cow disease." The decision contradicted media predictions that the government would order the slaughter of the entire British herd to halt the spread of a bovine brain sickness that could potentially kill people who consume the diseased beef. "The government is muddling through this," says TIME's Barry Hillenbrand. "They don't know which way to turn." Hillenbrand reports that economists project that slaughtering the British cow herd wouldreduce the GDP by as much as 0.5 percent and negatively affect the balance of payments by as much as $3 billion. "Economically, slaughtering the entire herd would be a disaster," says Hillenbrand. The European Union veterinary council is still studying the matter and has not yet decided whether it will enforce a Europe- wide ban. As many as 20 countries have banned British beef since Wednesday's announcement by the British Health Secretary that 10 deaths may be linked to the consumption of beef that is afflicted with the disease. Thirteen of the fifteen European Union Countries have already banned British meat. Two herds were slaughtered today in France as a measure to prevent the spread of the disease. "Despite some very legitimate concerns, there is an air of panic to this situation," notes Hillenbrand.