China bans German pork, egg imports

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Germany's problems with dioxin-contaminated farm produce deepened Wednesday as China banned imports of its pork and egg goods and it emerged that tainted meat may be in circulation.

A day after authorities ordered the slaughter of pigs at a northern German farm after discovering dangerous levels of dioxins in pork for the first time since the scare began last week, China said its ban was effective immediately.

China has banned imports of "German-produced edible pork and egg products," the country's product safety watchdog said in a statement, saying the move was aimed at safeguarding the health of Chinese consumers.

Chinese authorities also said they would inspect goods shipped from Germany prior to Tuesday and would release them only if they were found to be safe.

Previously only South Korea had banned German pork imports, while Slovakia had halted sales of German eggs and poultry meat, despite the German government's assurances that there was no immediate risk to human health.

The scare began last week when it emerged that a German firm may have supplied some 3,000 tonnes of fatty acids only meant for industrial uses to makers of animal feed late last year. The feed was then widely distributed.

With eggs found to have high levels of dioxin, which can cause cancer in high doses, authorities destroyed 100,000 eggs and banned almost 5,000 poultry and pigs farms from selling produce while tests were conducted.

Most of these farms have been since been given the all-clear, with just 490 still subject to the lockdown as of late Tuesday, according to the agriculture ministry in Berlin. Only three chickens were confirmed to be contaminated.

But on Monday authorities said that pork with high levels of dioxin had been discovered at a farm in the state of Lower Saxony, and that meat from pigs from the farm slaughtered before it was banned from selling could be in shops.

The German government said previously that none of the up to 150,000 tonnes of suspect animal feed had been exported, but the European Commission said this week that some had in fact made it to Denmark and France.

Around 136,000 eggs meanwhile were exported to the Netherlands, some of which ended up in Britain.

Public trust in Germany has also been shaken, with demand for organic eggs, unaffected by the scare, shooting up, according to experts and shopkeepers. Anecdotal evidence suggests that sales of organic meat are also on the rise.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner has vowed to crack down hard on those behind the scare and has said it wants to look at tightening regulations in order to prevent a repeat.

© 2011 AFP

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