Dioxin scare

Wednesday 15 December 2004

Spreads in European countries

A must victim of contamination a scare of dioxin contamination in animal feed has gripped the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France and Spain. The Dutch farm ministry sealed off nearly 200 livestock farms recently after carcinogenic dioxin was detected in a potato feed product used in the country. About 96 of these farms were re-opened later after tests confirmed absence of contamination. The scare spread to Belgium and Germany because eight farms in the former and three in the latter had imported the contaminated feed. The two countries also sealed all their farms temporarily. Spain and France were engulfed by the fear of contamination later, after it came to light that two cows from the affected Dutch farms were exported to Spain and the animal feed was exported to France.

The animal feed was manufactured by a Dutch unit of McCain, a Canadian potato chip maker. "We've tracked down all the farms that have bought the contaminated feed and have informed our colleagues in Germany and Belgium," said Benno Bruggink, spokesperson for the Dutch Agriculture Ministry. Both McCain and the Dutch government have fixed the blame for the contamination on a German clay used for sorting potatoes. "We have stopped using the clay, which originated from Germany. Both McCain and food authorities are conducting their own research, which we will cross-check and announce the results...," a McCain spokesperson said. The eu and Dutch authorities have said there is no risk to public health as the contaminated products have not reached consumers.

Dioxins are toxic chemicals produced in industrial processes and also found in pesticides. They leach into rivers and lakes and build up in the flesh of fish and other animals. Dioxin-contaminated animal feed has led to food scares in the past, like the detection of a harmful hormone in Dutch pigs in 2002 and discovery of dioxin in chicken in Belgium in 1999.

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