A row over permissible trade restrictions on food safety grounds is brewing at EU and WTO, with France pushing for a requirement that food imports should meet strict EU safety standards.

France has suggested that a European preference that requires imports to meet EU safety standards - rather than those supported by the WTO - should be enshrined in law.

However, some of Europe's staunchest supporters of free trade, such as Sweden, have voiced opposition to the proposal.

A spokesperson for Sweden's agriculture department, Therese Bengtsson, told just-food today (28 May) that the Swedish government puts both free trade and food safety "high on the political agenda".

"Any suggestions for stronger powers to block food imports has not been supported [by Sweden]," Bengtsson said.

Speaking at an informal European Council meeting held in Slovenia yesterday, Sweden's farm minister Eskil Erlandsson reaffirmed Sweden's opposition to tightened trade restrictions.

"Production of food is not only about quantities and prices but also about quality. No unsafe food should be placed on the market, irrespectively where it is produced, but I would like to underline that the EU does not have monopoly on food safety," he said.