Can British people be blood donors in France?

Can British people be blood donors in France?
The French blood service is appealing for donors. Photo: AFP
It's the time when, around the world, blood donor services issue appeals to make sure donors do not forget them during the busy holiday period.

The French blood donation service Établissement français du sang (EFS) is no exception, and has issued an appeal for donors, reminding people that: “The end of the year is often marked by a drop in blood collection due to holidays, weather and seasonal epidemics”.

But if you are British, your blood might not be welcome.

In general, the service is looking for donors in good health, aged between 18 and 70 and weighing at least 50kg.

But there are also a number of things that disqualify you from giving blood – and spending time in Britain is one of them.

On the list of exclusions, the French service includes anyone who has “stays in the United Kingdom between 1980 and 1996 of a cumulative duration of more than one year”.

Which would obviously discount a lot of Brits, as well as anyone non-British who studied or worked there during that period.

The reason for the exclusion is the BSE crisis, or la maladie de la vache folle (mad cow disease) as the French site refers to it.

The neurological condition BSE was reported in cattle in the UK in the 1980s and 90s, which resulted in a 10-year EU ban on beef exports from the UK.

There was a mall cull of British cows in an attempt to contain the BSE crisis. Photo: AFP

In total 4 million cows were slaughtered in the UK in an attempt to contain the crisis, while 177 people died of  variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease after eating infected beef.

France maintained its own ban on British beef for significantly longer than the EU, and seems to be taking a similarly cautious note in its stance on blood donors.

British people who lived in the UK between 1980 and 1996 of course can and do give blood in the UK.

Other exclusions in France relate to gay and bisexual men. 

Men are currently barred from donating blood if they have had sex with another man in the last 12 months. Over the summer the French parliament voted to relax this restriction, although under new rules – coming in from February 1st, 2020 – there is still a four-month exclusion period, so any gay men in long-term sexual relationships are effectively still barred from giving blood.

A review is planned with the possibility of bringing regulations for gay men in line with those for straight men by 2022, pending a risk assessment.

Other exclusions include certain health conditions or regular medication, recent tattoos or acupuncture treatments or recent trips to certain tropical countries. See the full list here.

Blood donors in France are not paid but you do get a free snack after donating. Plus, obviously, the priceless knowledge that you may have just saved someone's life.

If you want to donate and fit the criteria, you can find a map here of don de sang (blood donation) sessions in your area. If you are registering as a new donor you will need to take ID with you.


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