MORE THAN 200 dairy and livestock farms in Holland, Belgium and Germany have been temporarily closed, following the discovery of dioxin contamination in some of the feed given to the animals.

The problem first came to light in October, when routine sampling of Dutch milk picked up high levels of dioxins from a dairy farm in Lelystad.

This farm was isolated immediately.

Further investigations found the source of contamination to be potato peelings supplied by a McCain‘s processing plant in Holland.

“On Nov 2, 2004 it was confirmed that the potato industry by-product had been contaminated by marly clay used in the washing and sorting process,” said Dutch agriculture minister Cees Veerman in a letter to his parliament.

This clay had been supplied by a German company.

As well as isolating the original dairy farm, the Dutch food safety authority also suspended all trade in potato by-products by McCain.

In addition it has restricted animal movements from another 196 pig, cattle, sheep and goat farms which were found to have fed the contaminated peel.

First test results on eight meat samples have shown dioxin levels to be well within accepted safety thresholds.

“This is probably because the contaminated feed was mixed with by-products from other suppliers and thus diluted,” said Mr Veerman.

But all farms remain under government supervision until more test results have come back clear.