Belgium Returns Meat to Stores
Jun. 11, 1999
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) _ Belgium shrugged off international condemnation and resumed stocking shelves today with local meats and delicacies that many countries around the world have banned.
The Belgian government insists it has lists of farms that offer safe poultry, eggs, pork and beef. More than a thousand other farms are still barred from selling products possibly affected by the cancer-causing chemical dioxin.
``A large part of the beef and pork sector will be freed for domestic consumption and export,'' Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene said today, a day after a similar decision was made for the country's poultry.
Dehaene said 17 percent of the country's cattle farms, 40 percent of pork companies and almost half the poultry farms were prohibited from selling.
It remained unlikely all shops would be back to normal by Sunday, when Dehaene faces national elections suddenly dominated by the dioxin crisis.
Belgium beef, poultry, pork, eggs, milk and byproducts were banned by most nations, including the United States, last week after it was discovered that large quantities had been contaminated by dioxin. The contamination apparently was caused by dioxin-laced animal feed.
The European Union was considering legal action against the founding member state for the way the Belgian government had handled the biggest food scare since the 1996 mad cow crisis.
The government knew of dioxin contamination in poultry a month before telling the public and the EU. It admitted it made a mistake but has insisted the world was overreacting to the scandal.
Belgium, however, needs EU certificates before farmers can export to foreign clients again.
On Thursday, Jordan banned imports of meat and dairy products from Belgium, France and the Netherlands and insisted other EU nations provide certificates saying their food is free of dioxins.
The Belgian food and farm sectors estimate losses from the crisis at more than $850 million.
Citing the Belgium food scandal as a warning, a U.N. food agency urged governments to tighten regulations on the handling and storage of animal feed to prevent further cases of contamination.