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PARIS - A senior U.S. official has denied that a U.S. ban on the importation into the United States of some French foods is in retaliation for the European Union's ban on U.S. poultry imports, according to several published sources.
Elsa Murano, undersecretary of food safety at the Department of Agriculture, said on French radio that inspections of French food imports are a "continuous process" and are not performed without due care.
According to Murano, the United States does routine checks on French meat products once a year, as it does in the case of any nation that exports meat and poultry products to the United States.
Washington announced its decision to ban certain French food imports after an inspection in late January of 11 French companies, on the grounds that there were "nonconformities" and shortcomings in French health protection measures.
In spite of French efforts earlier in the week to persuade the United States of France's actions to address certain specific issues, U.S. authorities imposed the ban Tuesday. Murano explained that U.S. food inspectors had found that necessary measures had not been taken and that the United States had to take precautionary steps to protect public health.
Washington's decision came the day after the EU stopped imports of U.S. poultry and eggs after an outbreak of avian flu in Texas.
Paris yesterday called the U.S. decision "unfounded," adding that it wished to see a speedy resumption of exports of these products to the United States.