16 June 1999
EU confirms action over dioxin scare

by FWi staff

EUROPEAN agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler has confirmed that legal action will be taken against Belgium over the dioxin food scandal.

The confirmation came as it emerged that Belgium has blocked a request by commission officials to inspect the suspected source of the contamination.

“It is clear that there will be proceedings,” Herr Fischler told reporters at the end of a two-day European Union (EU) farm council meeting in Luxembourg.

A firm announcement on the type of action to be taken was expected later today (Wednesday) but could now be delayed until next week.

European veterinary experts must first decide whether to take action over Belgiums late notification that animal feed had been contaminated.

But they could equally decide to take more drastic action against Belgiums failure to adopt the necessary precautions to prevent feed contamination in the first place.

“We need to establish what type of infringement should be acted upon,” said Herr Fischler.

Hundreds of European farms are still under restriction following the feed scare which began last month when excess dioxin levels were found in Belgian poultry.

Herman van Rompuy, Belgiums acting agriculture minister, this week sought to defend his countrys delay in revealing that contamination of feed had occurred.

The Belgian government knew of the contamination for four weeks but said nothing, an act which culminated this week in the resignation of the prime minister.

Jean-Luc Dehaene claimed his government was unfairly penalised over the affair, which saw chickens, eggs, pork and beef swept from supermarket shelves.

But European officials remain frustrated by a Belgian judicial inquiry which is preventing them from inspecting the suspected source of the contamination.

Belgiums stance has already resulted in France demanding stricter controls on the type of ingredients allowed in animal feed.

The rules on animal feed ingredients are now being reviewed after European agriculture ministers agreed to consider calls for a ban on meat and bonemeal.