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Switzerland bans Austrian pork imports

Health fears have led the Swiss to ban Austrian pork imports

(Keystone)

The Swiss authorities have placed a ban on the import of pork from Austria, after a series of health scares in the country's livestock industry. Switzerland said Austria had failed to provide the safety guarantees demanded.

The Federal Veterinary Office said on Tuesday it had asked for written confirmation that Austrian-raised pork did not contain illegal substances. A spokesman said the ban would stay in place until such confirmation was provided.

The Austrian authorities have closed down 15 pig- breeding farms over the past week amid suspicions that their owners had been feeding their animals hormones and antibiotics to increase their weight.

Experts fear that eating pork containing such substances over long periods may cause cancer or immunity to antibiotics.

"We want to be sure that we don't get pork meat from farms that used these illegal medications," said the veterinary office's spokesman, Hans Wyss.

The office's decision comes a day after Switzerland's leading retail chain, Migros, said it would no longer stock Austrian pork.

A spokesman for the company said it would almost certainly be weeks before it was back on the shelves, and that Migros would be more cautious in future.

"We will improve our controls, we will make tests along the supply chain all the way back to the farmers, and we will check their feeding programmes," said Migros' director of meat, poultry and fish products, Hans Heinzerlmann.

Austria sells Switzerland around 9,400 tonnes of pork a year, 80 per cent of the total imported. However, Swiss farmers themselves produce 180,000 tonnes and imports represent only five per cent of the market.

swissinfo with agencies


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