Dioxin scandal spreads

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5 Jan, 2011 Updated Wed 5 Jan 2011 16:56 CEST
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Some 3,000 tonnes of dioxin-contaminated fatty acids used to enrich animal feed have been distributed in at least four German states, according to official estimates. As the scandal continues to spread, the authorities are shutting down more farms as a precaution.


Assuming a mixture ratio of between two and ten percent, there could be from 30,000 to 150,000 tonnes of toxic feed for egg-laying hens, pigs and poultry in Germany.

The German government is considering tougher regulations for the industry while the European Union has demanded an explanation of how animal feed became contaminated with the potentially poisonous substance.

A total of 136,000 potentially contaminated eggs were delivered to a firm in the Netherlands from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, and the Dutch company has been informed, a spokesman for the German Agriculture Ministry said on Wednesday.

The amount concerned is however tiny, with total annual production in Europe's biggest economy around 10 billion eggs, according to official figures.

"The EU Commission was informed. We are not aware at present of any other deliveries to other (European Union) member states," spokesman Holger Eichele told a regular government briefing.

Another 139 farms in North Rhine-Westphalia were closed late on Tuesday as a precaution and officials in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on Wednesday said they had shut six pig farms.

More than 1,100 farms have now been shut down since Monday after authorities were alerted to shoddy feed production practices at a Schleswig-Holstein agriculture firm, Harles & Jentzsch. Police raided the firm on Wednesday, a spokesman for the public prosecutors' office said.

The company has already admitted it had been “careless” in making animal feed from vegetable oils created as by-products of biofuel manufacturing.

The substance dioxin, which can cause miscarriages and other health problems such as cancer, may have subsequently got into eggs and poultry meat.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said the government would discuss with state governments possible changes to the law ensuring that the production of ingredients for animal feed and industrial products is kept separate.

"A comprehensive monitoring system is in place," Aigner said. "What is decisive is that the feed and food are taken out of the market. This is being done right now."

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia meanwhile has published the first, limited batch of serial numbers for eggs that may be contaminated. However, for most part, consumers have no way of telling whether eggs in their fridge may be affected.

Though a health risk is considered low, worried consumers should stick to organic eggs and meat for the time being.

Calls grew for swift consequences. The state of Thuringia’s Agriculture Minister, Jürgen Reinholz, announced a special meeting of agriculture ministers and demanded tough sanctions for the “charlatans of the industry.”

Reinholz told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that “tougher penalties for breaches of food and animal feed laws” were necessary.

The environmentalist Greens also called for tougher sanctions and demanded co-operation from the states.

“That means a unified approach of the states with the priority being consumer protection,” the party’s deputy parliamentary leader Bärbel Höhn said.

DPA/The Local/AFP/DAPD/dw/mry



2011/01/05 16:56

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