29 July 1999
Further dioxin scare hits Belgians
By Philip Clarke, Europe Editor
ANOTHER discovery of dioxin contamination in animal feed has rocked the Belgian pig industry, with over 200 more farms placed under restriction.
The farms concerned had escaped an initial trawl for affected holdings, which focused on those that received feed from one supplier, Verkest, in January.
It is believed that this feed was contaminated by a dioxin-laden animal fat from another processor, Fogra.
But the Belgian authorities have since discovered a second manufacturer may also have sold contaminated material to pig producers in February and March.
Belgian health minister Magda Aelvoet described the latest scare as “serious”, but dismissed suggestions that the problem was out of control.
Despite this, the Dutch government immediately reintroduced its ban on Belgian pigmeat, and other member states are considering their positions.
The new movement restrictions take the total number of Belgian livestock farms now under quarantine to around 800.
An aid package, worth over Bfr2.3 billion (£380m), has been given the go-ahead by EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler, but EU assistance still seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, MEPs meeting for the first time in the newly-formed agriculture committee have called for new food legislation to protect consumers.
This should include minimum quality standards for feedstuffs, spot checks on animal feed, and more promotion of organic produce.
The MEPs passed a resolution following a debate on the dioxin crisis in which they expressed their disbelief at the situation.
Phillip Whitehead, MEP for the English East Midlands, felt it was a re-run of the BSE crisis, which was itself a consequence of “disgusting” practices in animal feed.