Follow Up

Published: Saturday 31 July 1999

Two managers of a fats recycling firm have been charged with fraud for Europe's dioxin-in-food scare ( Down To Earth , Vol 8, No 4). "There are two people who have been questioned by the judge, a brother and sister, the two managers of the business. The woman was released, but with conditions," said Nicole De Rouck, spokesperson for the Ghent public prosecutor. The man had been detained and both were charged with merchandise fraud, bringing to four the number of people charged in the inquiry, she added. De Rouck, whose office is investigating how cancer-causing dioxin entered the food chain, said it was possible motor oil had been mixed with frying fat at Fogra, a fats and oils recycling firm which supplies fats to animal feed-makers. "We do not yet have the results, we are not yet certain, but it is probable," she said.

Fogra, based in southern Belgium, is known to have supplied the Verkest firm at the centre of the investigation. Verkest, which is based near the northwestern city of Ghent, processes fats, which it then sells to animal feed-makers. De Rouck said Fogra was not required to carry out quality control or analyses of its products. Belgium's inquiry into the scandal has traced the contamination by cancer-causing dioxin back to Verkest, although the precise nature of the source has not yet been identified.

The discovery that chicken meat and eggs were contaminated with dioxins, and that cattle and pigs had also been fed suspect feed, sparked Europe's worst food scare since the crisis over mad cow disease. Countries around the world slapped bans on Belgian food imports and shop shelves across Belgium were stripped of home-produced farm produce. The European Commission began legal proceedings against Belgium related to its handling of the incident. It said Belgium waited too long before informing its European Union partners of a potential problem, and took insufficient measures once the crisis broke.

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