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Germany

Dioxin scandal leads to pig cull as China halts pork, egg imports

The dioxin scare continues to cause ripples around the world, with China taking the decision Wednesday to halt imports of German pork and egg products following the culling of hundreds of pigs in Germany.

Pork being sold in a supermarket

The dioxin scandal has now hit German pork

China joined South Korea on Wednesday in halting the import of German pork and egg products after high levels of the chemical compound dioxin were detected in German pigs and animal feed.

Chinese authorities said the ban would take immediate effect, and that all products shipped from Germany prior to Tuesday would now be screened before entering the Chinese market.

South Korea restricted pork and egg imports from Germany on Saturday because of the affair, while Russia has said it may also take action.

The decision was taken after German authorities detected high levels of dioxin in pork from a farm banned from trading following the outbreak of the scare last week.

The dioxin find pushed authorities to order the cull of hundreds of pigs from the farm in the town of Verden in northern Germany, which was one of around 4,700 farms shut down while dioxin tests were being conducted. Most of the farms have since reopened, with only a few hundred still subject to restrictions.

The Verden farm was one of those supplied with animal feed containing ingredients made by a firm suspected of knowingly selling some 3,000 tons of fatty acids meant only for industrial use. Samples of the fat contained more than 70 times the approved amount of dioxin.

Dioxins are formed by burning waste and through other industrial processes and have been shown to contribute to increased cancer rates and affect pregnant women.

The scandal broke last week when German investigators found excessive levels of dioxin in batches of eggs and chickens, leading authorities to freeze sales of poultry, pork and eggs from thousands of farms.

No immediate health risks

Chickens in a coop

High dioxin levels were first detected in eggs and chicken feed

The German government has said so far that there is no immediate risk to public health, and that the dioxin levels detected did not threaten humans if consumed in small amounts. Officials added, however, that the contamination must be stamped out to avert serious long-term risks.

"The damage that has been caused is immense, not only financially but also when it comes to consumer trust ... This is a scandal, as consumers who expect safe food were duped," German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said on Monday. "This incident must and will have consequences."

EU officials said Monday that some tainted animal feed had also been exported to France and Denmark.

Author: Darren Mara, Natalia Dannenberg (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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