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'Scandal within a scandal’ as 934 German farms close on fresh dioxin discovery

By Rory Harrington, 17-Jan-2011

Related topics: Quality, Safety, Hygiene, Safety & Regulation, Contamination

A further 934 pig and poultry farms were closed in Germany over the weekend following the discovery that previously unknown batches of dioxin-contaminated feed had been sold.

The action came as it was reported that a feed producer in Lower Saxony had concealed some of the outlets it had sold produce to.

Farms in Lower Saxony as well as in North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and Brandenburg were all shut and banned from selling eggs and pork. But federal authorities stressed the levels of dioxin presented no immediate threat to human health.

‘Scandal within a scandal’

The revelation provoked a furious reaction from German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner who dubbed the news a “scandal within a scandal”. She demanded that Lower Saxony state premier David McAllister deliver a report as to why it had taken so long to find the hidden contaminated feed, as well as taking action against any federal officials responsible for the oversight, according to German media reports.

A spokesman from the German Federal Ministry for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection declined to comment on these reports.

But he told that Minister Aigner would be meeting with the food, agriculture and consumer protection ministers from Germany’s 16 federal states (landers) tomorrow to “clarify all questions” relating to the food contamination scandal.

Anti-dioxin action plan

The news of the farm closures is a huge blow to German efforts to demonstrate that it has contained the situation which first came to light at the end of December when it was revealed that Schleswig Holstein firm Harles and Jentzsch had mixed dioxin-tainted industrial fatty oils into animal feed. The scandal led to the closure of 4,000 farms and has sparked global concern. Dioxin-contaminated liquid eggs are known to have entered the food chains in the UK and Denmark.

Saturday’s development came just 24 hours after federal ministry released an anti-dioxin action plan calling for the tightening up of rules on animal feed and food manufacturers and as it confirmed that the majority of affected farms had been re-opened.

The plan would compel manufacturers to have “strict separation of production flows” for materials for industrial and feed/food uses. It also proposes introducing a licensing system for oil and fat producers as well as extending legal requirements for the inspection and subsequent reporting on animal feed products.