09 June 1999
Belgium clashes with EU over food scare
BELGIUM is heading for a clash with the European Union (EU) after refusing to obey instructions to remove its diary products from the market.
The Belgian government wants to lift its ban on butter sales shortly and to ease restrictions on sales of cattle and pig products.
The ban was introduced after the scare over the contamination of feedstuffs with the cancer-causing chemical dioxin.
Belgium has now told three-quarters of the countrys poultry farms that they can resume slaughter of the birds for human consumption.
The EU is thought to be comfortable with the poultry decision but has strong reservations about Belgiums decision to allow other products back on to the market.
Jean-Luc Dehaene, Belgian prime minister, said tests on beef and pork products for the chemical dioxin had shown negative.
Officials were satisfied that dairy products were safe and the government would not order the withdrawal of high-fat cream and cheese products demanded by the EU.
Some countries including France, Germany and Austria, have imposed bans on Belgian livestock products.
Outside the EU, countries including the US, Hong Kong, Russia and South Korea have extended bans to EU products beyond Belgium.
Contaminated food is believed to have been delivered to over 1,400 farms in January.
Belgium claims that samples taken at three animal feed companies had tested positive for dioxin, leaving six companies in the clear.
The majority of farms in Belgium were not contaminated in the scare which affected fewer than 400 of 48,000 cattle producers and 746 of 11,700 pig farms.