EU governments were set on Thursday to reject a bid by Brussels to lift a ban on US poultry which is washed in chlorine, ensuring that American turkeys will not grace Europe's Christmas dinner tables.
European Union farm ministers, meeting in Brussels, were due later on Thursday to take a decision on the matter, which has been under discussion since spring.
Advertisement"Amid a consumer scare of Irish pork, tainted with dioxins, and Chinese dairy products laced with melamine, such an idea is a non-starter," a diplomatic source said.
"The refusal will be a formality. The member states would have a hard job getting their consumers to accept it."
The US food industry uses the chlorine washing process on its poultry to kill off bacteria, including salmonella, before it reaches consumers' plates.
The practice is banned in the EU where veterinary experts favour hygiene controls throughout the hatching and rearing cycle to better ensure that the bacteria does not develop in the first place.
France, Europe's biggest poultry producer, has led opposition to scrapping the ban, which Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier hasdescribed as "a symbolic issue."
The economic factor remains modest, with Europe more than able to provide for its poultry needs.
Nevertheless in May, EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen proposed lifting the 10-year ban on US poultry under certain conditions.
In the face of the opposition, the EU's executive modified its proposals, saying that American chlorinated chicken should be identified as such on supermarket shelves.
US poultry would also gave to be rinsed in drinking water after being chlorified and the import authorisation would only last two years.
However those concessions have not been enough to win support from member states.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) hasn't helped clarify matters by issuing a nuanced opinion.
It said the US methods left a toxic residue while calling on more research to discover whether there were any long-term health effects.
US ambassador to the European Union, Kristen Silverberg, said in a statement that "the EU's own independent experts determined that US poultry is safe for European consumers.
"US poultry is safely consumed by millions of Americans every day, and the washes used to treat chicken in the United States are used on multiple other food products throughout Europe," she said.
"We hope that the European Union's decisions regarding poultry imports will be based on science," the ambassador added.
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