'Contaminated' German eggs also exported: ministry

5th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Eggs potentially containing toxic dioxin that have caused a health scare in Germany were also exported, but only to one country, the government said Wednesday after Brussels demanded more details.

A total of 136,000 eggs were delivered to a firm in the Netherlands from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, and the Dutch company has been informed, a spokesman for the agriculture ministry said.

The amount concerned is however tiny, with total annual production in Europe's biggest economy around 10 billion eggs, according to official figures.

"The EU Commission was informed. We are not aware at present of any other deliveries to other (European Union) member states," spokesman Holger Eichele told a regular government briefing.

"I would stress that we still do not know the source of this dioxin contamination and that there are only suspicions so far. Therefore we would warn against hasty conclusions," Eichele said.

The scare has resulted in more than 1,000 farms in the north-western state of Lower Saxony alone being told to stop production while tests take place. There are around 375,000 farms in Germany.

A German firm is alleged to have supplied up to 3,000 tonnes of contaminated fatty acids meant only for industrial usage to around 25 animal feed makers in five of Germany's 16 states, including Saxony-Anhalt, Eichele said.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of feed containing the ingredient were then delivered to farms with chickens, other poultry and pigs, in eight states including Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous.

The agriculture ministry spokesman said there were no indications that the suspect ingredient or any potentially tainted feed was exported.

Police raided the firm concerned, Harles und Jentzsch, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, on Wednesday, a spokesman for the public prosecutors' office said.

Dioxin, a by-product of burning rubbish and industrial activities, can cause miscarriages and other health problems in humans, including cancer.

Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said the government would discuss with state governments possible changes to the law ensuring that the production of ingredients for animal feed and industrial products is kept separate.

"A comprehensive monitoring system is in place," Aigner said. "What is decisive is that the feed and food are taken out of the market. This is being done right now."

Meanwhile the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) downplayed the risk to human health from the possible contamination.

"There is no acute health danger for consumers," the BfR said on its website.

© 2011 AFP

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