Berlin suspects 'illegal activity' in dioxin scandal
There are signs that the animal feed at the centre of a food crisis in Germany became contaminated with a carcinogenic substance following "illegal activity," Berlin said on Friday.
"The first indications point to a high level of illegal activity," said a spokesman for Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner.
The firm Harles und Jentzsch in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein is alleged to have supplied up to 3,000 tonnes of contaminated fatty acids meant only for industrial use to around 25 animal feed makers.
The scandal has forced the closure of more than 4,700 farms in Germany and prompted scares in the Netherlands and Britain, where potentially contaminated products have been exported.
The vice president of the association for consumer protection and food safety in Lower Saxony, Konrad Scholz, told the Tagesspiegel daily: "At such high levels, it cannot just be a mistake."
Industrial acids are much cheaper to produce than those intended for fodder.
The chemical contaminating the feed is dioxin, a by-product of burning rubbish and industrial activities. Dioxin can cause miscarriages and other health problems in humans, including cancer if consumed in high levels.
On Friday, the scandal expanded when it emerged that tests had shown a high level of dioxin at the firm in March 2010 but the results were not passed on to the appropriate authorities.
© 2011 AFP