10 August 1999
Belgium gives in over dioxin tests

BELGIUM has reluctantly agreed to comply with stringent tests on its food exports ordered by the European Union.

Magda Aelvoet, the countrys agriculture minister, had threatened to defy the EU and ignore the demand for tests for cancer-causing dioxin.

But in the face of a threat of a blanket ban on Belgian food exports, she has dropped her opposition.

Belgium is unhappy that the EU is insisting it test all food exports containing more than 2% animal fat. It believes a looser standard, of 20% fat, would be enough.

EU veterinary experts insisted last week Belgium must test beef exports for dioxin – as well as pork and poultry.

Belgium still intends to appeal against the demand for testing to the European Court of Justice.

The latest skirmish comes two months after the discovery of high levels of dioxin in pigs and poultry caused by the consumption of contaminated feed.