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Sunday, June 13, 1999


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U.S. blocks more EU food imports in dioxin scare
07:13 p.m Jun 11, 1999 Eastern

WASHINGTON, June 11 (Reuters) - The United States, in a second step to ensure Americans are not exposed to dioxin in food, said on Friday it would block imports of eggs and egg-containing products from France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

At the same time, the United States also approved the first exceptions to a total ban on pork from the European Union by again allowing imports of Parma hams from Italy and Serrano hams from Spain.

The decisions came one week after federal officials blocked entry of all pork and poultry from European Union nations.

That action was taken as a safeguard against exposure to dioxin mixed into livestock feed and delivered to farms earlier this year, primarily in Belgium.

Dioxin can cause cancer, even at low levels over time.

Along with eggs and egg-containing products, the Food and Drug Administration said it would impound game meats under its jurisdiction from France, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as pet foods and all animal products, including feed and feed ingredients.

FDA said it was concerned that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), another carcinogen, also might also have been in the contaminated feed and could taint meats and animal products like eggs.

``Because this was a one-time incident with eggs being only one component of many in egg-containing products, FDA believes that the exposure of U.S. consumers to harmful levels of PCBs and dioxins is minimal,'' the agency said in a ``talk paper'' describing its actions.

For products to be released from detention, FDA said, importers must provide laboratory test results showing no PCBs were detected and that dioxin did not exceed one part per trillion.

An FDA spokesperson was not immediately available to say which imported game meats were under its jurisdiction.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said it would allow imports of Parma and Serrano hams because the long processing times for both products means they were produced well before the potential feed contamination occurred.

A department spokeswoman did not know how much Parma and Serrano ham the United States imported, but it would only be a tiny fraction of total pork imports from the EU.

In the first five months of this year, the United States imported 1.27 million pounds (0.57 million kg) of pork products from Italy and 164,803 pounds (74,754 kg) from Spain, compared to total pork imports from the EU of 74.3 million pounds (33 million kg), the aide said.

Denmark is the EU's largest pork producer. The United States imported 54.8 million pounds (24 million kg) of Danish pork in the first five months of the year.

Tom Billy, administrator of the agriculture department's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), said in a statement his agency is continuing to gather information from the EU on which meat products may have been contaminated.

FSIS will further ease its restrictions on pork and poultry imports from the EU only ``when sufficient information -- including testing -- firmly establishes that products meet U.S. food safety standards,'' Billy said.

U.S. poultry imports from the EU totalled only 141,684 pounds (64,267 kg) in January through May. All were from France.

The United States imports no beef slaughtered in the EU.

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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