BRUSSELS — Egypt, Kuwait and Algeria on Sunday joined the ranks of countries curbing imports of Belgian meat and poultry as Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene halted a reelection campaign to deal with a food contamination scare.
The bans were announced despite new measures unveiled by Belgium on Saturday to reassure consumers and control Europe's worst food scandal since Britain's "mad cow" crisis.
Dehaene said Sunday that he will suspend campaigning for the June 13 national election because of the scandal over dioxin-contaminated animal feed. Dioxin is a cancer-causing chemical.
"This problem is too serious," he said. "My concern is not my image; it is to get a grip on this problem, contain it, have clean supplies, also for foreign markets."
Animal feed contaminated with dioxin led the government to order stores to stop selling poultry, eggs, fatty pork and beef, and all byproducts.
Hundreds of butchers and bakers were either closed Sunday or were planning to close in the coming days because most of their products have been discredited or banned since the dioxin scandal broke last week.
The government maintains that the problem began when animal fat, contaminated with dioxin most likely from mechanical oil, was mixed up with 176,000 pounds of feed for poultry, pigs and cattle.
The government is having trouble pinpointing which farms used the tainted feed, forcing officials to keep the products off the shelves.
The U.S. blocked European Union imports of pork and poultry, and Singapore banned all EU meat products. Countries from Switzerland to South Korea took similar measures against Belgian products.
Egypt banned imports of all meat and poultry products from the European Union, its main trading partner. Kuwait joined many Gulf Arab countries in banning imports of Belgian poultry.
Algeria said it was banning imports of chicken eggs and day-old chicks from France, the Netherlands and Spain, the only EU countries from which it imports poultry products.
European Union veterinary experts will meet today to reexamine the food safety scare and assess EU trade curbs on Belgian chickens, eggs, pork, beef and dairy products from farms that might have used contaminated feed.