Dioxin egg trail leads to Britain: EU

6th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

A hunt for potentially dioxin-tainted eggs, first collected in Germany then exported to the Netherlands, has turned to Britain, the European Commission said Thursday.

Frederic Vincent, spokesman for European Health Commissioner John Dalli, said British authorities were hunting for processed food made from the suspect eggs in order to quarantine the consignment pending checks on whether it is toxic.

Britain was informed Wednesday that the suspect food had been exported there, he added, as the search for the eggs that began on December 28 in Germany widens.

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

The scare began when a German firm, Harles und Jentzsch, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, was alleged to have supplied up to 3,000 tonnes of contaminated fatty acids meant only for industrial use to animal feed-makers.

Initially thought to involve only two of Germany's 16 states, it later emerged that thousands of tonnes of feed containing the ingredient were delivered to poultry and pig farms in eight states.

More than 1,000 farms in Germany's northwestern state of Lower Saxony alone were told to stop production while tests took place.

Analysis of the fatty acids showed 12 to 16 pictograms of dioxin per gram of fat, or four or five times the accepted level of three pictograms.

A total 136,000 eggs -- nine tonnes -- from suspect poultry farms were delivered to a firm in the Netherlands on December 3 from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt to be turned into processed food.

A first batch of 86,000 eggs, or six tonnes, mixed with Dutch eggs, were turned into 14 tonnes of processed food and exported to Britain as far back as December 12, Vincent said.

The Commission did not know whether the foodstuff had been used in products such as mayonnaise and cake powders, or put into shampoo.

A second batch of 50,000 eggs -- three tonnes -- was exported to the Netherlands December 15 and mixed with 14 tonnes of Dutch eggs to make up three consignments of processed foodstuff.

One of the consignments is in deep freeze in the Netherlands awaiting analysis and nobody knows where the other consignments are, the spokesman added.

The European Commission said however that even if the eggs were found to be tainted the contamination would "be weak" and the mix with other eggs "would have diluted it".

Commissioner Dalli is to ask German authorities for further information on the farms involved, such as whether they intend to slaughter the laying hens.

Fears over food traceability have been high since the "mad cow" crisis.

"The scale here cannot be compared to crises in the past," Vincent said. "We have drawn lessons from the past. An alert system is in place."

© 2011 AFP

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