The American poultry industry has urged U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to “fully and resolutely pursue” a World Trade Organization action against European Union rules that effectively block American poultry from the European market.

“To date, the EU has conducted no risk assessment to justify the ban on U.S. poultry,” wrote George Watts, president of the National Chicken Council; Joel Brandenberger of the National Turkey Federation; and James H. Sumner of USA Poultry and Egg Export Council in a letter to Kirk’s agency.

Since 1997, the European Union has banned imports of poultry processed with chlorinated water, which helps control potentially pathogenic microorganisms and is considered safe by U.S. authorities. The industry representatives who signed the letter estimate that the policy prevents them from developing a market in Europe worth about $240 million for chicken and $60 million for turkey and duck.

The European Food Safety Agency, the EU Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks, and the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks cleared the way in 2008 for approval of the use of four pathogen-reducing treatments—chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chlorite, trisodium phosphate, and peroxyacids— finding them safe and effective. The European Commission tentatively approved their use, but was overruled by representatives of national governments.

“The EU has not been able to demonstrate nor justify why the use of [pathogen-reducing treatments] is not scientifically acceptable and why a politically expedient decision should be acceptable,” the industry representatives wrote. “Pursuing resolution of the issues through the WTO dispute settlement process may not only prove to restore U.S. poultry exports to the EU but, equally important, will … provide for a more predictable and fairer opportunity for agricultural exports to participate in the world market.”