The United States said today it has found no further evidence of cyanide tampering in Chilean fruit but it is not yet prepared to release the imported fruit for sale.
A high-level Chilean delegation arrived in the United States today for urgent talks aimed at salvaging Chile’s fruit export business, endangered by the discovery in Philadelphia over the weekend of two red grapes laced with small amounts of cyanide.
The United States on Monday ordered an embargo on all fruit imports from Chile and advised grocery stores to stop selling the Chilean products. Canada, Japan, West Germany, Denmark and Hong Kong have also banned fruit imports from Chile.
No Contamination Found
“As of now no contamination has been found,” a Food and Drug Administration statement said. “This does not, however, mean the fruit will be released for sale at this time.”
The FDA said it was trying to develop an inspection plan that would allow it to assure the safety of the fruit and release it for sale.
Chilean Foreign Minister Hernan Errazuriz and Agriculture Minister Jaime de la Sotta were to meet FDA head Frank E. Young tonight to develop a plan to satisfy U.S. health safety concerns and have the embargo on Chilean fruit lifted.
“The government of Chile, while it cannot endorse the drastic steps taken by the FDA, understands its concern for the health of U.S. consumers,” a Chilean Embassy statement said.
Importers of Chilean fruit said any inspection plan to salvage fruit that has already been delivered would have to be developed immediately as the fruit would rot in one to two weeks.
De la Sotta, on his arrival in New York, told reporters his government had found no indication the cyanide was injected in Chile.
The FBI said it had launched an investigation to determine if the Chilean grapes had been tampered with in the United States.
The two poisoned grapes bore puncture marks.
The FDA said it had completed visual inspections of all the fruit on the Almeria Star, the ship in Philadelphia Harbor on which the cyanide-laced grapes had been found.
The withdrawal of the fruit was the biggest recall of a product in U.S. history. It came after an anonymous caller warned officials at the U.S. Embassy in Chile that fruits had been contaminated with cyanide.