Suspect German eggs may have wound up in processed foods

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German eggs potentially containing toxic dioxin, shipped to the Netherlands last month, were destined for industrial use, meaning they may have wound in processed foods, Brussels said Wednesday.

"We don't know if the eggs were contaminated" by dioxin, said the spokesman for the European Health Commissioner, John Dalli.

"These eggs weren't destined for direct consumption but for industrial use," said spokesman Frederic Vincent.

The two non-named firms that received the eggs could thus have been used for processed foods such as mayonnaise or instant cakes.

The Commission's Dutch contact "informed us that this morning they will inspect the two companies involved," the spokesman added.

According to the Commission's latest information, no contaminated food of animal origin had been traded or exported to other member states or third countries with the exception of the two batches of potentially contaminated eggs to the Netherlands.

In Berlin, the agriculture ministry said 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.

The amount concerned was 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 northwestern 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.

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

© 2011 AFP

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