German 'dioxin firm' denies illegal activity
The head of a firm at the centre of a food contamination crisis that has forced 4,700 farms to close in Germany Friday denied wrongdoing after Berlin said there were signs of illegal activity.
Siegfried Sievert, chief executive officer of Harles und Jentzsch, suspected of delivering fats intended for industrial use to animal feed producers, told Spiegel television: "We did not use any fats that were not permitted."
He said he did not know where the high levels of dioxins originated. "We are conducting tests, we are working closely with the authorities. We have been taken completely unawares," he added.
Earlier Friday, a spokesman for Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told a regular news conference: "The first indications point to a high level of illegal activity."
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.
Nearly all types of farms, especially those rearing pigs, have been affected by the closures in eight of Germany's 16 states, the agriculture ministry said. There are around 375,000 farms in Germany.
Dioxin, a by-product of burning rubbish and industrial activities, can cause miscarriages and other health problems in humans, including cancer if consumed in high levels.
Officials have insisted there is no health risk from the scandal.
© 2011 AFP