State Veterinary Office bans poultry imports from EU states

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In the midst of Europe's latest food scandal, the Czech State Veterinary Office on Thursday announced an immediate ban on poultry imports from all EU member states. The ban was imposed in the wake of a discovery of beef proteins in poultry imported to the UK from the Netherlands. Josef Holejsovsky, the head of the State Veterinary Office, explains that a broad ban is not expected to remain in place for very for long.

"We stopped all imports but only to ask our colleagues from the EU states whether they use this practice and whether they are able to guarantee that their poultry is without bovine or other proteins. If they are able to provide such guarantees we will prepare new certificates and within two weeks we can reopen our market to poultry imports. But we need to have a guarantee that when our people buy poultry they are not getting beef."

Yes, but what about the poultry that has already been consumed? That's what people are worried about. Is there a serious health hazard here?

"It could be - for instance for someone who is allergic to bovine protein and who has no idea that while he is consuming poultry he is also consuming bovine protein. This could cause serious problems. Another case is if someone does not eat beef for some reason -be it on religious or ideological grounds- these people have a right to know that when they buy and eat poultry they are also consuming bovine protein."

So in the very least, it is cheating consumers?

"Yes."

Now, it has also come to light that the Belgian company Bioland has been using growth hormones and pharmaceutical waste in its animal feed. Does that mean that pork imports could be contaminated as well?

"We are now studying this problem. We haven't taken any measures yet because we are still hoping that the Belgian authorities will be able to explain the matter. But naturally any hormone you consume is unnatural for your body and it should not be added to foodstuffs. In this case it is fed to animals during their life. And there have been so many problems with hormones in the past -especially in Belgium- that I am really surprised that no effective action has been taken -that these problems continue to crop up."

So the Czech Republic is currently importing meat from Belgium, is that the case?

"I don't know exactly if we are importing it but..."

But if we are, it comes with a clean certificate?

"It comes with a certificate that it contains no hormones. That is why we have not yet taken any measures. We have no reason not to believe our colleagues that what they export is certified. And if something is fed to the animals illegally then that is something for the Belgian veterinary authorities to clear up."

So what will you do at this point? Conduct your own tests?

"We will conduct random tests on Belgian meat imports but we will not effect a ban unless the tests uncover the presence of growth hormones or other irregularities."

Some people buy exclusively Czech products - can you guarantee that they are safe?

"Yes, naturally. We have never used hormones in the Czech Republic as they are being used in some EU member states."