Veterinary experts from 26 of the 27 EU member states are opposed to poultry washed in chlorine and support an import ban on US chicken, European officials said Tuesday.
At a meeting of the experts in Brussels on Monday and Tuesday, only Britain abstained while all other member states opposed plans by the European Commission to lift the ban on poultry washed in chlorine.
A spokesman for the commission said the EU's executive arm would "analyse" the experts' opinion before an upcoming meeting of EU farm ministers at which the proposal was expected to be debated.
The Greens in the European Parliament immediately called for the commission to drop its plans to resume imports of poultry rinsed with chemicals and maintain the ban, which has been in place since 1997.
"The chlorination of chicken intended for human consumption is not acceptable for the EU and will not find a majority," either in the parliament or among member states' governments, Greens co-president Monica Frassoni said.
The US food industry uses the chlorine washing process on its poultry to kill off bacteria, including salmonella, before it reaches consumers' plates.
EU veterinary experts favour hygiene controls throughout the hatching and rearing cycle to better ensure that the bacteria does not develop in the first place.
The issue has been a source of contention in EU-US trade relations and German EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen has led efforts to get it lifted, stirring tensions within member states and even in the commission itself.
The prospect of lifting the ban was only made possible after a new European Food Safety Authority assessment last month.
It found that the four substances used in the US for cleaning poultry carcasses -- chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite, trisodium phosphate and peroxyacids -- represented "no safety concern within the proposed conditions of use."