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Thursday, 29 August, 2002, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Saudi seizes $26m of EU goods
Saudi market
Saudi importers are pushing for an end to the ban
Saudi Arabia has reportedly seized food and drink imports worth $26m since it imposed a ban on some goods from the European Union in late July.

The Saudi trade ministry banned all carbonated soft drinks and chicken meat from the EU on the grounds they may carry a risk of causing cancer or impotence in men.

Commerce Minister Osama Faqih ordered the suspension after health reports indicated the meat and drink may contain hormones that are harmful to humans.

Anxious times

But the ban has angered Saudi soft drinks importers who are lobbying hard to have it withdrawn, according to local press reports.

Saudi importers have asked for a meeting with the head of the national laboratory service in charge of testing the seized products, the Ozak newspaper reported.

Some products have turned out to contain the hormones, the paper said.

However, crates of Perrier carbonated drinking water have been released.

Thirsty work

Dr Hussein Al-Sheikh, who heads the testing local lab in the port of Dammam has said his staff hope to finish testing samples from all the seized containers soon.

Importers said the crates contained vinegar and juices as well as fizzy drinks, and one of them is waiting for the release of a single container worth 15 million riyals ($4m).

Drinking alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia, where the penalty is a public whipping.

However, a recently launched "Islamic cola" named after a holy spring in the pilgrimage city of Mecca has been selling well since a campaign to boycott US goods was launched earlier this year.

Saudi Arabia also has a ban on the import of beef and cattle meat from the EU over fears of so-called Mad Cow Disease, or BSE, which has broken out in the UK in recent years.

Saudi Arabia also barred trade with two companies from Ireland and Belgium for manufacturing banned industrial hormones.

Saudi Arabia is not the only country to express fears about hormones in meat.

In the past, the EU has imposed bans on American beef, and Russia this month agreed to lift restrictions on imports of American chicken.

The EU has also protested to China about hormones in honey.

See also:

26 Jul 02 | Middle East
21 Aug 02 | Middle East
11 Feb 02 | Business
08 Feb 01 | Middle East
19 Feb 02 | Health
05 Jun 00 | Middle East
11 Apr 00 | Middle East
16 May 02 | Country profiles
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