EU Parliament Against Proposal on US Poultry Imports

EU - Strong opposition from member states, consumers and farmers has led the European parliament to attack plans by the European Commission to lift an import ban on US poultry washed in chlorine.
calendar icon 20 June 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

At a parliament meeting in Strasbourg yesterday, AFP reports that a non-binding resolution was passed by a large majority. The resolution stated that the proposal "is out of step with both the European public's food safety and hygiene expectations and the demand for production models ... which ensure that high hygiene standards are maintained throughout the production and distribution process."

"It would be likely to undermine European consumer confidence in foodstuffs sold within the European Union, which remains fragile following the food safety problems that have arisen within the Union over recent years," the resolution added.

The proposal before parliament would have allowed poultry disinfected with chlorine and three other chemicals to be allowed in the European Union under certain conditions. For an initial period of two years while checks are carried out, the practice of disinfecting chicken meat with these solutions would be allowed, providing it was clearly labelled on the packaging.

Opposition to the proposal has been widespread. Nevertheless, Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen has sought a proposal to lift the ban, which has been in place since 1997 as the result of health fears about chlorine washing.

The process is common in the USA to kill bacteria, including salmonella, before it reaches consumers. 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.

AFP reports that the issue has been a source of contention in EU-US trade relations and the German commissioner has led efforts to get it lifted, stirring tensions within member states and the European Commission.

At a meeting of the EU executive's food chain and animal health committee on 2 June, 26 of the 27 member states expressed a negative opinion on the proposal. The other member state abstained.

On Tuesday, Health Commissioner Androula Vassiliou commented that the Commission had proceeded with the proposal despite the opposition "because there has been a request for approval which could not be left unanswered, considering also our international commitments."

She added that scientific opinions indicated that the authorisation could go ahead "provided it is flanked by a number of strict conditions, as we did."

The plan will now be put to EU ministers but Commissioner Vassiliou is doubtful about its chances. She explained that if a qualified majority of member states were to oppose the proposal, it would not be adopted.

The final decision will take place under the French presidency, and France has led the opposition to scrap the ban.

Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier told reporters at a recent meeting with EU counterparts in Slovenia, "The Americans don't have to buy our chickens (and) we don't have to accept theirs."

View the AFP story by clicking here.
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