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4,700 German farms hit by dioxin contamination
BERLIN, JAN 7 (Agencies):
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Published on 8 Jan. 2011 12:11 AM IST
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German agriculture and consumer affairs officials have halted sales from more than 4,700 farms where feed for chickens may have been contaminated by dioxin.
Gerd Sonnleitner, President of the German Farmers’ Association, said on Friday the estimated loss to the industry was between $52 million and $70 million a week.
The order, which involves five states but mainly Lower Saxony, has led to the withdrawal from the market of millions of eggs as prosecutors investigate how a rapeseed oil processed by a company which supplied the feed came to be contaminated by dioxin. The substance can cause severe health problems in humans, including cancer and miscarriages.
Since the scare became public at the beginning of this week, up to 3,000 tons of an additive to poultry feed have been found to contain traces of dioxin, according to a report from the German Agriculture Ministry.
In a country where scares concerning food safety can sometimes lead to hysteria or panic buying, regional authorities and the federal government moved quickly to reassure the public, saying that the level of dioxin would be too low to pose health risks.
There were fears that the health scare may have gone beyond Germany’s borders to the Netherlands. According to Holger Eichele, a spokesman for the German Agricultural and Consumer Protection Ministry, a total of 136,000 eggs were delivered to a Dutch firm. “The company has already been informed about the problem and so has the European Commission, “ Mr. Eichele said. “We are not aware of any other deliveries to other E.U. member states.”
Ms. Aigner said the federal and local authorities would consider whether regulations on animal feed needed tightening . After speaking to John Dali, the European Union’s health commissioner, Thursday evening, she called for stricter regulation on animal feed to protect consumers and farmers throughout the bloc.
“In the coming weeks, I will explore with our E.U. partners and stakeholders ways to further strengthen our monitoring processes of dioxin in feed,” Mr. Dali said in a statement.
The scare began when Harles and Jentzsch, a German firm in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, allegedly supplied up to 3,000 tons of contaminated fatty acids meant for industrial use to animal feed producers.
The company says the contamination of its animal feed with dioxin-laced industrial fat was an isolated case and that they notified the authorities themselves. The feed was delivered mostly to hog and poultry farms, and eggs from some of the suspect farms were exported to the Netherlands. As a result, around 8,000 chickens from German farms were culled.
The German Farmers’ Association has called for the feed producers to compensate farmers for their losses. “Whoever causes the damages should also pay for them,” the secretary general of the association, Helmut Born, told the German daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel.
Ms. Aigner said the company responsible for the contamination would have to pay the consequences. “Whoever puts the existence of hundreds of companies and the health of consumers at risk must be held accountable,” she said.

 
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