EU to consider ending ban on US poultry
The union will discuss whether to lift the import ban on US poultry, adopted due to health fears over a chlorine disinfecting process.14 May 2008
BRUSSELS - The European Union will discuss this month whether to lift its import ban on US poultry, adopted due to health fears over a chlorine washing process, European sources said Tuesday.
A plan prepared by the European Commission would link health conditions to the lifting of the ban, including a requirement for the US industry to rinse the meat in drinking water after it has been disinfected with chlorine or sodium solutions.
The properly treated chickens would then be clearly marked to inform European consumers, according to the draft version of the plan, to be presented on 28 May, the sources said.
The lifting of the ban was made possible after a European Food Safety Authority assessment last month.
It found that the four antimicrobial substances used for cleaning poultry carcasses - chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite, trisodium phosphate and peroxyacids - represented "no safety concern within the proposed conditions of use".
The US poultry ban, which was imposed in 1997, would initially be lifted for two years, during which fresh scientific opinions will be sought.
The US food industry uses the chlorine washing process on its poultry to kill off bacteria, including salmonella, before it reaches consumers' plates.
EU veterinary experts favour hygiene controls throughout the hatching and rearing cycle to better ensure that the bacteria does not develop in the first place.
The commission proposal - which could face criticism from EU governments unwilling to upset public opinion and their own farm lobbies - will be made public ahead of an EU-US summit in June.
France, Europe's biggest poultry producer, reaffirmed its opposition Tuesday to any lifting of the embargo.
"France opposes any resumption of US chicken imports because European consumers don't want to see any poultry put on the market which has undergone a treatment of this kind," an agriculture ministry spokeswoman told AFP.
"France has opted for measures that manage the risk at each step of the chain, from the breeder to the consumer," she said.
The news came as the EU-US Transatlantic Economic Council - which aims to achieve barrier-free and secure trade - was meeting in Brussels.
A high-level US delegation led by Daniel Price, international economic affairs assistant to US President George W. Bush, was holding talks with a European team led by EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen.
In November 2007, at the inaugural Transatlantic Economic Council meeting, Verheugen promised to reconsider the poultry issue on the basis of scientific advice.
[AFP / Expatica]