By Philip Clarke

UK food products could be hit with stiff import duties as the US shuffles the list of goods it penalises in retaliation for the EUs ban on hormone-treated beef.

Until now, the UK has been specifically excluded from Washingtons hit list, due to the governments sympathetic line on beef hormones.

But late last week the US opened a two-week consultation with its food and farming sectors to decide which countries and which products to target, in the hope of forcing the EU to lift its beef import ban.

“The provision was motivated by our growing sense of frustration with the EUs failure to honour its World Trade Organisation obligations,” said a statement from Charlene Barchefsky, the US Trade Representative.

Last year the WTO ruled that the US was entitled to raise 100% levies on $117m of trade, since the EU had failed to comply with its earlier order to lift the ban.

A new rule passed by Washington last month gave the US the authority to redirect and increase those fines.

So far beef and pork from 14 member states have been targeted, with more specific duties placed on Roquefort cheese, Dijon mustard, goose liver pate and truffles.

The new list includes a wider range of poultry products, tomatoes, cut flowers, oats, sausages and mixed animal feed.

It remains to be seen exactly which are penalised and whether the US maintains the exemption for the UK.

“Its all back in the melting pot,” said one official.

The latest action contradicts EU predictions that the US would now lift its tariffs altogether, following new evidence from Brussels that one of the hormones used in US cattle rearing – 17 beta oestradiol – is a carcinogen.

Armed with this assessment, the EU is now in line with WTO requirements.

But the US rejects this, describing the EUs claims as “laughable”.

Brussels said this week that it would challenge the latest US move at the WTO in Geneva.