Tuesday, June 8, 1999 Published at 19:06 GMT 20:06 UK
EU may sue over food scandal
Belgians have been instructed to dispose of dairy products
The European Commission is considering taking legal action against the Belgian Government for its handling of the food contamination scare, which has cost European farmers billions of dollars in lost earnings.
The commission's agriculture spokesman, Gerry Kiely, told the BBC that the Belgian authorities had been aware that animal feed had been contaminated with dioxin, as far back as April.
"We are very dissatisfied with that and we may well take some legal action against the Belgian authorities later," Mr Kiely said.
However he added that the commission's immediate concern was to ensure that all contaminated products were removed from the market to allay consumer fears.
Hundreds of products have been withdrawn from Belgian supermarket shelves since the alert - estimated so far to have cost Belgium's food industry up to $1.3bn.
Countries worldwide have banned the import of Belgian meat and dairy products and several countries have imposed a blanket ban on European farm produce.
The EU Commission sought on Tuesday to calm the fears of third countries over the dioxin scare.
Mr Kiely told a news briefing: "We are meeting with all the third countries involved to explain the controls that are in place, and we would hope to get these disproportionate measures on all EU products lifted."
Meat back on shelves
He said: "The products from these breeders will be sold from midnight on Tuesday because the European Commission has said that products from uncontaminated producers can be put back on the market."
The decision allows 2,456 out of 3,266 breeders to sell their products again after being cleared of dioxin contamination.
"Everyone admits it is not a general contamination, but a restricted accident that we have to isolate," the prime minister said.
Samples taken at three animal feed firms in the country had tested positive for the chemical, he added.
Samples from a further six firms, which also produced and sold animal feed with fat from a Belgian oils and fats processing company believed to be at the heart of the scare, had so far tested negative. Further tests would be conducted, the prime minister said.
"We are doing the impossible, are using every means so that before the end of the week ... the situation is normal again," Mr Dehaene said of the 12-day food scandal.