(DTN)--Fresh checks by European scientists have confirmed fears that using growth hormones on cattle could affect human health, the European Commission said.

The findings reinforce opinions issued in 1999 and 2000 on hormone-treated beef, which the EU used to support its ban on them. This resulted in a trade row with the United States, where they are used extensively.

The European Union's scientific committee, which reviewed 17 case studies, "confirmed that the use of hormones to stimulate the growth of cattle raises a potential risk for consumers' health," the commission said.

The committee "has found no reason to change its earlier opinions issued in 1999 and 2000," it added, in a statement.

In 1999, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled that the EU's decade-old embargo was illegal and authorized Washington to impose $117 million of sanctions on EU goods in retaliation.

In response to the ruling, the commission promised regularly to evaluate scientific data on hormone use.

The beef row is dwarfed by two other transAtlantic issues--over a U.S. export tax scheme which the EU says is unfair and is seeking $4 billion of sanctions, and more recently over steel, where EU retaliation for new U.S. import duties could top $2 billion.

Talks between Brussels and Washington are continuing on beef. The EU has offered compensation, in the form of increased duty-free access for U.S. meat free of hormones. Under current arrangements, U.S. and Canadian producers can export 11,500 tonnes a year duty-free to the 15-nation EU.

"We would prefer a switch from sanctions to compensation. There are ongoing technical talks and we shall see what they deliver," commission spokesman Anthony Gooch told journalists.

The EU executive decided in February to end extra testing of U.S. hormone-free beef for residues, due to growing confidence that the meat exported as such contained no banned substances.

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