USA to test beef after cancer fears

11 February 2000

USA to test beef after cancer fears

By FWi staff

THE USA is to resume tests for an illegal hormone suspected of causing cancer after Swiss health inspectors reported finding traces in imported American beef.

The Swiss team claimed to have found the hormone DES (diethylstilbestrol) in two out of 26 samples of US beef.

US agriculture secretary Dan Glickman said he was very concerned, and has demanded an independent review and full report on the issue.

The hormone DES (diethylstilbestrol) was once commonly used as a growth promoter, but was withdrawn in 1979 as suspected carcinogen.

The United States Department of Agriculture continued tests until 1991, when it concluded DES was no longer being used.

The timing of this apparent reappearance of DES could hardly have come at a worse time for the USA, reports the Washington Post

The EU has banned US hormone-treated beef for the last 10 years on the grounds of potential health fears.

American officials have argued successfully before the World Trade Organisation that the ban amounts to an unfair trade barrier.

However, if the presence of DES is proven, this could cast doubt on US claims and further undermine confidence in US meat products in Europe.

EU veterinary inspectors recently said US systems could not guarantee beef was hormone-free, raising the possibility of a full ban on US meat products.

Since then, the USA has revamped its system to comply with EU requirements.

The EU has now postponed for a month a decision on whether to continue allowing imports of hormone-free beef from the USA.

Tests for DES will begin within a month.

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