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Contact: Elizabeth Gaston

Statement by Administrator Thomas Billy
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service

June 18, 1999

"Meat and poultry products produced in European Union (EU) member states have been on hold at U.S. ports-of-entry since June 3, 1999 because feed contaminated with dioxin and PCBs had been fed to animals in Belgium, France and The Netherlands. This hold was necessary because of concerns that open trading among EU member states may have spread contamination beyond its original boundaries.

"Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is releasing pork from Denmark from the hold. The Danish government has now provided FSIS with sufficient information to demonstrate that Danish pork is safe for consumers. Of the approximately 75 million pounds of pork product shipped to the U.S. from the EU between January 1 and May 31, 1999, nearly 55 million pounds of pork came from Denmark.

"All other European countries that have shipped pork or poultry to the United States during 1999 must also provide FSIS satisfactory written assurances before their products will be released from hold.

"Additionally, Belgium, The Netherlands, and France, where contaminated feed was fed to animals, will undergo hold and testing of each product lot for PCBs until sufficient data are collected for FSIS to find that imported pork and poultry from these countries are safe for consumers. PCB tests are being used because PBS would be present in much greater amounts than would dioxin. Also, the test for PCBs is quicker and less expensive than the test for dioxin. The cost of this testing will be borne by the importer. This program will remain in effect for as long as is necessary to determine whether the current dioxin/PCB incident represents a single anomaly or a recurring pattern of contamination.

"As an additional assurance for American consumers, FSIS is also implementing a special PCB surveillance program that will be applied to meat and poultry products in the United States that originated from European countries, especially Belgium, France and the Netherlands, and can be identified as parts of shipments exported to the United States this year. Any test results of concern will trigger appropriate follow-up by FSIS."

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