14th May 2021

Germany's poisonous eggs found in Britain, Netherlands

  • The dioxin scare is spreading to more EU countries (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Dioxin-contaminated eggs from Germany have reached the Netherlands and Great Britain and may have been further processed in food products such as mayonnaise or cookies, making their traceability virtually impossible, the EU commission said on Thursday (6 January).

Germany's agricultural ministry has announced that over 4,700 farms have been closed as a precaution after fears of dioxin contamination in animal feed. Dioxin is a toxic substance formed by burning waste and by other industrial processes and can cause cancer and miscarriages.

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A spokesman for health commissioner John Dalli on Thursday however tried to downplay the negative effects, saying the concentration was still relatively low, ten times less than during a similar contagion in Belgium in 1999. Someone had to "eat a lot of eggs" to have a health problem, porte parole Frederic Vincent said.

While tracing contaminated eggs as such is relatively easy, finding contaminated products after the eggs had been mixed with other foodstuff was a much more complicated task, the spokesman explained.

The scare began when a German firm, Harles und Jentzsch, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, was alleged to have supplied up to 3,000 tonnes of contaminated fatty acids meant only for industrial use to animal feed-makers.

A total 136,000 eggs from suspect poultry farms were delivered to a firm in the Netherlands on 3 December, where they were turned into processed foodstuff. Nine days later, a first batch of 86,000 eggs, mixed with Dutch eggs, were processed into 14 tonnes that were exported to Britain, Mr Vincent said.

The Dutch food safety body NWA said the 136,000 eggs imported from Germany no longer posed a risk. Only a very small amount had been processed by food companies before inspectors tracked down the eggs.

"In the coming weeks, I will explore with our EU partners and stakeholders ways to further strengthen our monitoring processes of dioxin in feed," commissioner Dalli said in a statement after he had a phone conversation with the German minister of agriculture.

EU experts will examine the case on 11-12 January and representatives of the food industry are expected in Brussels to discuss how to improve production of fatty acids.

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