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Dioxin Scandal Brews In Europe

Food Safety: A German company is under scrutiny after it sold fatty acids contaminated with the toxin for use in animal feed

by Sarah Everts
January 10, 2011

Contamination Concerns
Credit: Newscom
Regulators in Germany examine eggs for dioxin.
Credit: Newscom
Regulators in Germany examine eggs for dioxin.

A food safety scandal continues to rock Germany after regulators discovered that animal feed has been contaminated with cancer-causing dioxin.

Millions of eggs from chickens that may have been given the feed have been pulled off shelves in Germany, while thousands of farms across the country have been suspended from selling eggs. Korea and Slovakia have blocked German poultry and meat products, while stores in the U.K. have pulled products from shelves that may contain some of the tainted eggs.

At the heart of the scandal is the German company Harles & Jentzsch, which supplies animal feed companies with fatty acids added for nourishment. In March 2010, the company measured amounts of dioxin in the fatty acids it was selling for animal feed at twice the allowable level. Exactly how the fatty acids became contaminated with the dioxin is under investigation. The fatty acids contaminated by dioxins which were sent to feed producers were not intended for consumption, but for other uses.

Agriculture authorities in Germany learned of the contamination problem in late December, 2010. Subsequent tests on the company's products have shown high dioxin levels in nine out of 20 samples, and in one case 10 times above the legal limit.

German and European regulatory authorities say that the levels of dioxin present in food are not dangerous to human health.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner has called for stricter regulations on food safety across Europe and vowed that those responsible "will be held accountable."

The last dioxin scare in Europe was in 2008, when unacceptable levels of the contaminant were found in mozzarella cheese produced in Italy.


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