14 June 2002

No outright ban on German organic food

EU scientists have pulled back from imposing an outright ban on exports of German organic food, as the Federal authorities insisted they had the situation regarding contaminated products under control.

Threats of pan-European action against Germany were raised earlier this week, after recent contamination of organic chicken feed with a banned herbicide, nitrofen, known to cause cancer (News, May 31). As a consequence, around 90 poultry farms have been closed and many thousands of chickens have been destroyed.

Confusion reigned initially as Germany first declared there was more than one source of contamination, then retracted the statement. It also suggested the problem had been going on for several years and the feed had found its way on to conventional farms.

Some countries have taken unilateral action. Belgium enacted laws to ensure that only feed and animal products guaranteed to be nitrofen-free would be allowed across its borders, though this has now been dropped. Hungary went further and banned all feed imports.

But, after a meeting of the EUs standing committee on the food chain on Tue, Jun 11, the commission said the source of the contamination had now been clearly identified and Germany was in the process of tracing the last few contaminated products. &#42