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USDA defends ban on EU pork, poultry

Chickens raised on Belgian feed are held on a farm in Wormhout, France. Government authorities will decide if the poultry will be destroyed.   

June 4, 1999
Web posted at: 12:25 p.m. EDT (1625 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman defended his agency's temporary block on the import of pork and poultry products from the European Union. He said Friday it is a necessary step to protect U.S. food safety.

On Thursday, the USDA instructed customs inspectors to block all chicken and pork from EU countries, after reports that some meat might contain the cancer-causing chemical dioxin.

The USDA said the move is precautionary.

The federal agency believes the dioxin originated in Belgium, where two Belgian Cabinet ministers have been forced to resign amid allegations that the government waited nearly a month to tell the public that chickens and eggs contained high levels of dioxin.

The USDA's announcement follows an earlier decision by countries across Europe to ban the import and sale of the tainted birds, eggs and byproducts. The EU has called for the destruction of poultry products from more than 400 farms in Belgium.

Belgium has said it discovered dangerous levels of dioxin in Belgian-made poultry feed. Dioxin is used in pesticides and herbicides.

Belgian authorities have arrested the owners of one suspect feed business and charged them with fraud and falsification of documents. The business supplied companies in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The company also allegedly sold feed to Belgian pig farms, prompting Brussels to issue a temporary ban on the slaughter of pigs and another call for suspect meat to be pulled from supermarket shelves.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Greece destroys 10 tonnes of Belgian chicken
June 3, 1999
U.S. to block EU poultry, pork due to dioxin scare
June 3, 1999
Belgian food scare spreads
June 3, 1999
Belgian ministers under spotlight in tainted-chicken scare
May 30, 1999

RELATED SITES:
U.S. Department of Agriculture
European Union
European Commission: Agriculture
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