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All Belgian foods identified

July 2

All Belgian foods identified

Consumers can be confident that any Belgian, Dutch or French foods on sale in New Zealand are free of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin.

All foods containing Belgian ingredients of animal origin have been identified, checked and cleared as being safe, the Ministry of Health said.

Ministry Chief Advisor of Safety and Regulation Dr Bob Boyd said the last of the about 30 importing companies had now been contacted.

The companies checked their records to determine whether their imports could have been contaminated by the cancer-causing chemical dioxin fed to animals in Belgian earlier this year.

The checks found only a very small proportion of food on sale in New Zealand containing Belgian ingredients had been imported during the January 15-June 1 period in question.

Contacting importing companies was only one of several precautionary measures the Ministry took when the food safety scare erupted in Europe.

The Ministry met with retailers' representatives to ensure potentially contaminated goods were withdrawn from sale until their safety could be confirmed, Dr Boyd said.

An emergency food standard was drafted preventing the importation of goods without a certificate of clearance. The standard will remain in force until the European community advises the Ministry that the issue has been resolved.

Dr Boyd said the situation in Europe was confused and the individual countries were unable to give blanket clearance to their export products.

"We had no evidence that the foods on sale containing animal products from the affected countries could present a health risk, but we took swift precautionary action. We were heartened by the responsible attitude shown by retailers and importers."

The potentially affected products included processed meats, cheese, chocolate, and soups and broths. A list of cleared products is available on the Ministry's website. Address; http://www.moh.govt.nz/dioxin.html

Dioxin could harm people who ingested it regularly over a prolonged period rather than people who ate a possibly slightly contaminated food once or twice.

ENDS

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