GENEVA (AP) -- The United States announced Thursday that it would press ahead with a trade complaint initiated in the final days of ex-President George W. Bush's tenure by asking the World Trade Organization to investigate an EU ban on American poultry.
Washington will make the request at an Oct. 23 meeting of the WTO's dispute body, according to a statement. The U.S. and the European Union have argued for more than a decade over EU restrictions on imports of poultry treated with anti-bacterial chemicals.
"The U.S. poultry subject to the EU ban is safe," said Nefeterius McPherson, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative. "There is no scientific evidence that the use of pathogen-reduction treatments pose any health risk to consumers."
Brussels can delay the establishment of a WTO panel only once, meaning a formal investigation could be pushed back until November. It cannot block a panel twice.
The EU said it regretted the U.S. action.
"We will defend our food safety legislation, which does not discriminate against imported products," said spokesman Lutz Guellner.
The two trade powers had consultations after the U.S. brought the complaint to the WTO on Jan. 16, in Bush's last full week in office before handing over to President Barack Obama.
The U.S. is the world's largest poultry producer, but it has clashed with the EU over four "pathogen-reduction treatments" -- chlorine dioxide, acidified sodium chloride, trisodium phosphate and peroxyacids. Each has been approved for poultry processing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the EU has blocked poultry carcasses processed with such treatments since 1997.
The WTO cannot force countries to comply with its rulings. It can authorize commercial sanctions against nations continuing to break the rules, but trade cases often take years to reach that point.