18 October 1999
Thai and Brazilian chicken fears

NICK BROWN, the agriculture minister, is under pressure to introduce routine testing of chicken imports from Thailand and Brazil.

This comes after allegations that they could contain bacteria resistant to antibiotics used to treat serious infections picked up in hospital.

Brown is also being urged to order the labelling of all food with its country of origin.

The issue has been raised by the National Farmers Union.

Chicken farmers say while they must follow strict European Union hygiene and welfare laws, the government allows birds which could threaten human health to enter the food chain unchecked.

Chicken produced in the two countries is suspected of being fed with the growth-promoting drugs zinc bacitracin or virginiamycin.

These were banned from chicken production in the European Union after evidence that they might by responsible for the development of resistant bacteria

The two drugs are freely available in Thailand and Brazil whose exports of chicken to Europe have this year soared 73% and 54% respectively.