USDA Symbol Food Safety and Inspection Service
United States Department of Agriculture
Washington, D.C. 20250-3700
News and Information

Contact: Elizabeth Gaston
(202) 720-9113

Statement By Administrator Thomas J. Billy
USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service

July 20, 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, because feed contaminated with dioxin and PCBs may have been fed to animals in Belgium, France and the Netherlands. The hold was necessary because of concerns that open trading among EU member states may have spread contamination beyond its original boundaries.

        "Based on information that FSIS has received from the countries, as well as FSIS testing of product from France and the Netherlands, we have released product from France, the Netherlands, and Spain for distribution to consumers. In addition, on July 2, FSIS announced release of product from Finland, Ireland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom; on June 18, FSIS announced it was releasing product from Denmark because of documentation that product is safe; and on June 11 released Parma ham from Italy and Serrano ham from Spain because of the long curing times for these products.

        "Between January 1 and May 31, 5,263,499 pounds of pork came to the U.S. from the Netherlands; 164,803 pounds of pork came from Spain; and 388,744 pounds of pork and 141,684 pounds of poultry came from France.

        "Future shipments of product from France and the Netherlands will continue to be held and tested, until the U.S. is assured of continuous acceptable levels of PCBs.

        "FSIS is testing more than 730 samples of product on hold, primarily from the countries where it is believed that contaminated feed was distributed. FSIS is testing for PCBs because PCBs would be present in much greater amounts than would dioxin. Also, the test for PCBs is quicker and less expensive. Tests continue on products from Belgium.

        "Product from the other EU countries remains on hold until information and test results give FSIS assurance that they are safe for American consumers."

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FSIS Congressional and Public Affairs Staff
Phone: (202) 720-9113
Fax: (202) 690-0460

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