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Sunday, June 13, 1999


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China to hold talks with EC over food scare
12:17 a.m. Jun 11, 1999 Eastern

BEIJING, June 11 (Reuters) - China, which has banned the sale of food products possibly tainted with dioxin from four European nations, will discuss the issue with European Commission officials on Friday, the China Daily reported.

``Imports of possibly dioxin contaminated food products from some European countries have put Chinese health authorities on high alert,'' the official newspaper said. Dioxin can cause cancer.

``The Ministry of Health and the European Commission representatives will discuss the issue on Friday,'' it quoted Zhang Xudong of the ministry as saying.

It did not say where the meeting would take place or who would take part.

On Thursday, state media quoted the ministry as saying in an urgent circular China had banned the sale of a range of dairy products, meat and poultry ``in all areas'' from Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany.

China had imported all the possibly affected kinds of food except beef, the circular said.

It said China had suspended imports of meat, dairy products and poultry produced after January 15 in the four countries, including raw materials and related semi-finished products.

Products already imported would be sealed and banned from being sold, it said.

``Initial statistics from Chinese Customs indicate China imported 101 tonnes of meat and poultry from Europe in the first five months of this year,'' the China Daily quoted Zhang as saying.

He said the Health Ministry was collaborating with the customs and quarantine departments to detail the source and size of the imports.

The fall-out from Europe's food scare over dioxin poisoning in Belgium widened on Thursday despite Belgian government assurances that meat was now safe to eat.

The scare has ballooned into Europe's worst food scandal since the mad cow crisis after it emerged that contaminated feed may have also have been sent to thousands of farms, including pork and cattle holdings.

The near two-week-old crisis has caused some 30 countries to withdraw suspect Belgian meat and dairy products over fears of contamination, and rattled European consumers have sent meat prices tumbling.

The Belgian government said it was convinced that products from farms believed to have received tainted animal feed were safe. It would undertake more tests to show that European Union curbs on selling meat and dairy products should be lifted.

The European Commission has ordered all products from farms that could have used dioxin-tainted feed to be traced and destroyed.

Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication and redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.Reuters News Service
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