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EU toughens rules on imports in response to deadly pig virus

BRUSSELS/PARIS (Reuters) - EU officials on Tuesday agreed new rules for the treatment of imported pigs blood for use in animal feed, but decided against changing the rules on importing live pigs even though a deadly virus has caused major losses to the U.S. pig industry.

In a statement, the European Commission said import rules on live animals were already very strict and the U.S. and Canadian authorities had told them no live pigs were scheduled to be despatched to the European Union.

But it said an expert committee had introduced a requirement that any blood products to be imported to the European Union for use in pig feed must have been treated at 80 degrees, followed by storage for six weeks at room temperature, which the Commission said would ensure any coronavirus present was inactivated.

It also said the Commission would continue to review the situation and its expert committee would meet again early in June.

France had said it was considering a unilateral ban on imports of pigs and pig by-products from the United States, Canada, Mexico and Japan.

But it later said it would wait until after Tuesday's meeting in Brussels to take a decision.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Le Foll welcomed the measures announced on Tuesday.

"Everything must be done to prevent the introduction into French and European farms of the coronavirus responsible for the epidemic," the ministry said in a statement.

A spokeswoman confirmed France would not introduce a separate ban.

The porcine epidemic diarrhoea virus (PEDv) has killed around 7 million young pigs since being identified in the United States almost a year ago.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis and Sybille de la Hamaide; Editing by Foo Yun Chee and Greg Mahlich)

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