EU drafts new laws to beat dioxin contamination

Brussels is planning to introduce stricter rules for animal feed manufacturers as it responds to the recent contamination of pig and poultry rations with dioxins.

The incident in January saw thousands of farms in Germany quarantined and processed food recalled from shelves in the UK,

The contamination originated in Germany, where ingredients distributer Harles and Jentzsch supplied a number of compounders with dioxin-contaminated fat that should have been destined for industrial use.

The draft measures announced by EU health commissioner John Dalli at the latest farm council meeting in Brussels will include: An approval system for fat and feed manufacturers; monitoring and testing in fat production plants; tighter separation of fats for industrial and feed use; and regulations to mandate private labs to report traces of dioxins.

A vote by member states is expected by the end of February.

Meanwhile in Germany Harles and Jentzsch has filed for bankruptcy as authorities investigate whether the company knowingly sold the recycled chip fat, destined for industrial paper production, to animal feed manufacturers.

It has since emerged that internal testing of fat at private laboratories by the company found high levels of dioxin in March last year, but authorities were not informed and only discovered the contamination in December.

At the height of the scare, almost 5000 farms were closed and, currently, about 580 farms in Germany remain shut. Russia, Hungary, South Korea, China and Japan have all implemented import controls on German pork products.

In the UK contaminated liquid egg was imported from The Netherlands and used in the production of quiches and cakes, with some retailers forced to remove products from shelves. This was despite assurances from the Food Standards Agency that contamination levels were too low to threaten human health.

The British Egg Industry Council urged UK food manufacturers to switch to British Lion brand eggs, while NFU poultry board chairman Charles Bourns said the thought of “tanker loads of untraceable liquid egg travelling around Europe” was “galling”.

Danish producers were also affected by contaminated feed imported from Germany. A large stockpile of cracked egg from producer Triova Aps, which tested close to the maximum limits for dioxins, is set to be destroyed.

French producers were also affected, but tests revealed that levels in eggs were below the levels permissible in the EU.