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European chicken, pork imports held off market

Associated Press DataStream - June 04, 1999 07:55

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WASHINGTON (AP) - As a precautionary measure, the Department of Agriculture is keeping all imports of chickens, pork and any byproducts from the European Union off the American market.

The announcement was made Thursday after EU officials began destroying those items for fear they could be laced with a cancer-causing dioxin.

The department's Food and Safety Inspection Service said it was acting in response to information received from the Belgian government when it decided to place a hold on chicken and pork. The department could not say how many pounds of imported goods the action involved.

"These are precautionary steps," said Mark Mina, acting administrator for the inspection service.

On Wednesday, the European Union called for the destruction of Belgian chickens, eggs and any byproducts that could contain a cancer-causing dioxin. The Belgian government also issued a slaughter ban on pigs, fearful that many of them have also been infected by the same contaminated animal feed.

The U.S. Agriculture Department, which has not ordered any recall of products on store shelves, said it is reviewing products imported since January to determine if additional action is necessary.

Pork imports from the EU to the United States totaled $245 million in 1998. The United States imported virtually no poultry meat from the EU during that period, said USDA spokesman Andy Solomon.

The EU's executive commission ordered the measure after a meeting of veterinary experts and lashed out at Belgium for moving too slowly when the European consumer could be in danger.

The scandal broke last week when a television station reported that dioxin-laced fat was used to make poultry feed. Dioxin is a carcinogenic byproduct in the manufacture of some herbicides and pesticides.

The EU decision forces EU nations to destroy any poultry, eggs, or byproducts from some 400 suspect farms in Belgium produced from Jan. 15 to June 1.

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