Germany

Tainted eggs prompt mass shutdown of German farms

Photo: Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski

More than 4,700 German farms have been closed after animal feed was found to be contaminated with dioxin, a poisonous chemical that causes miscarriages, cancer and other health problems. There are fears that contaminated eggs have been exported to several countries.

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According to the Hannoverische Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, tests conducted last March showed dioxin levels twice the maximum permitted amount, but the results were not communicated to the authorities until late December.

It says the tests were conducted by Harles und Jentzsch, the company at the centre of the scandal.

Harles und Jentzsch is alleged to have supplied up to 3,000 tonnes of contaminated fatty acids meant for industrial usage to around 25 animal feed makers.

Dioxin is a by-product of burning rubbish and industrial activities. Up to 150,000 tonnes of feed were feared to have been contaminated.

A total of 4,709 farms and businesses are closed, including 4,468 in the state of Lower Saxony, northwest Germany.

Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner meanwhile suggested that businesses making fatty acids for fodder should not be able to manufacture materials destined for industrial use on the same site.

German authorities on Wednesday informed the European Union that 136,000 eggs (nine tonnes) from contaminated German farms had been exported to the Netherlands.

The European Commission said Thursday tainted eggs may have reached the UK. Britain’s Food Standards Agency has played down the threat.

"The mixing of the eggs will have diluted the levels of dioxins and they are not thought to be a risk to health," it said.

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