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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 February, 2004, 04:05 GMT
US stops import of French meats
Foie gras
French foie gras will be hard to find in the US
The US has suspended imports of French meat products on safety grounds.

Items such as sausages, hams and foie gras are affected, France's Agriculture Ministry has reported.

The US has introduced the ban after a team of American farm officials visited the 11 French firms allowed to export such products to the States, it said.

Tuesday's move came hours after the European Union introduced a Europe-wide total ban on US poultry and egg imports after a bird flu outbreak in Texas.

Below standards

A spokesman for the US Food and Safety Inspection Service, Steven Cohen, said the decision had been taken because of "repeated problems with factories that were certified to export".

He said the problems related mainly to sanitation.

Mr Cohen said inspection systems in France had to be equivalent to those in the United States and the French system would require some attention to bring it to the necessary standard.

But a statement form the French Agriculture Ministry objected to the US position.

"France agrees neither with the statements made by the US authorities, nor the conclusions they thought they needed to draw from them," it said.

The ministry added that French Farm Minister Herve Gaymard had taken a last-minute trip to Washington on Monday to present the steps taken by French firms to comply with specific US standards.

However, this failed to prevent the ban.

Gerard Clavieres of foie gras producers Castaing, based in south west France, said US export certification requirements had become more exacting in recent years.

"The regulations are very strict, so if the US wants to de-list (an exporter) it's very easy to find a reason," he told the BBC's World Business Report.

Re-start hope

The visit to France by the US Department of Agriculture team took place between 15 January and 5 February.

In addition to inspecting the 11 French firms licensed to import foie gras and other processed meat products to the US it toured the veterinary services that supervise the companies.

Mr Gaymard said he wanted to see the export of French meat products to the US restart "as soon as possible".

The move came on the same day that the World Trade Organisation gave the EU the go-ahead to introduce trade sanctions against America, because of the US's failure to repeal an historic anti-dumping law.

Gerard Clavieres, Castaing
"We don't know the exact reasons for our delisting."

EU suspends US poultry imports
24 Feb 04  |  Europe
EU gets go-ahead for US sanctions
24 Feb 04  |  Business

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