STC Number - 242

EC Restrictions on US poultry exports

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: United States of America
Supported by:
First date raised: October 2006 G/SPS/R/43, paras. 28-29
Dates subsequently raised: February 2007 (G/SPS/R/44, paras. 32-33)
June 2008 (G/SPS/R/51, paras. 27-28 )
Number of times subsequently raised: 2
Relevant documents: Raised orally.
Products covered: 0207 Meat and edible offal, of the poultry of heading 01.05, fresh, chilled or frozen.
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Food safety; Human health
Status: Not reported
Solution: DSU consultations requested on 16/01/2009 (WT/DS389/1). Panel established on 19/11/2009; composition pending.
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In October 2006, the United States raised concerns regarding the delay by the European Communities to finalize and implement a draft regulation that approved antimicrobial treatments (AMTs) on poultry subject to certain restrictions. The United States recalled that in August 1997, the European Communities stopped imports of US poultry meat on the basis of the use of AMTs in its production. However, in January 2006 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had concluded that the antimicrobial washes at issue were safe, confirming an April 2003 opinion by the EC scientific committee on veterinary measures related to public health. Despite the decision by the European Communities to propose new legislation that provided the framework to approve these products for use on poultry, the European Communities had yet to approve importation of poultry treated with these products. The United States urged the European Communities to authorize these products so that US poultry exports which met rigorous US safety standards could also meet EC standards.

The European Communities appreciated the US concerns regarding the delay but noted that it was important that the genuine and long-standing concerns in the European Communities over the use of AMTs were taken fully into account in the approval process. The circumstances that led to the effective ban on poultry meat from the United States in 1997 did not relate exclusively to AMTs. The use of AMTs in food of animal origin was not permitted at present in the European Communities inter alia because of concerns that the use of such treatments could disguise other hygiene problems. The European Communities expressed disappointment that while it was possible for US exports to meet EC hygiene requirements without the use of AMTs, the United States was still insisting on the use of these products. The European Communities was in the process of finding a solution and this included a recent decision in principle that AMTs could be used to tackle surface contamination. A draft regulation had been prepared which allowed for the use of such substances under specific conditions. The European Communities was still identifying the specific conditions to accompany the draft regulation, in order to ensure that AMTs were not used to hide other problems. However, the European Communities expressed hope that bilateral information exchanges with the United States could lead to a mutually agreeable solution.

In February 2007, the United States reported that despite a positive risk assessment by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), the European Commission had not yet authorized the imports from the United States.

The European Communities responded that the EC market was open to imports of poultry meat, and substantial quantities were imported from Brazil and Thailand. The European Communities was also open for US exports, but had difficulties with the US insistence on the use of anti-microbial treatments (AMTs). The US poultry industry worked to high standards, but refused to export poultry that had not been treated with AMTs. One solution would be for the United States to change its system and export without AMTs, which it refused to do. The other solution was for the European Communities to adapt its system, which was very sensitive because these products were banned for use in Europe. The use of AMTs was very controversial with EC member States and consumers, who considered these products unnecessary if appropriate hygiene was used from farm to table. The European Communities had taken constructive steps and adopted framework legislation to allow for possible authorization of AMTs. EFSA had evaluated their safety, and discussions were underway with member States to develop implementing legislation to allow their use.

In June 2008, the United States recalled that its poultry exports faced restricted access to the EC market since 1997, based on a ban on the use of Pathogen Reduction Treatments (PRTs). Over the past 11 years, EFSA and other scientific bodies had concluded that the consumption of poultry washed with certain PRTs did not pose any risk to public health. Although the European Commission had proposed legislation permitting the use of PRTs in January 2006, the ban on imported poultry had not been removed.

The European Communities observed that the EC market was open to trade and it imported large volumes of poultry and poultry products from a number countries, including Brazil and Thailand. The European Communities banned the use of AMT in poultry because these could be abused in order to compensate for poor hygienic conditions throughout the production chain. Given the high hygienic standards in the United States, if the use of AMTs were eliminated in US poultry production, the European Communities could most likely resume imports of US poultry products.