Just days after the southern German state of Bavaria was hit by a new scandal involving mislabeled spoiled meat, Germany had to temporarily close off five pig farms suspected of using dioxin-contaminated animal feed.
Ignorance is bliss: unsuspecting pigs taking a cosy nap
Pigs from several German farms have been slaughtered for testing, while more than 650 EU farms, including five in Germany, remained quarantined on Wednesday after it became clear that faulty filters at a chemical plant in the Netherlands caused abnormal levels of the poison dioxin to reach animal feed.
According to the Belgian Federal Food Chain Security Agency (AFSCA), on several occasions in October two filters malfunctioned at a plant owned by the Belgium-based international Tessenderlo Group, contaminating a shipment of hydrochloric acid sent to PB Gelatins, which is part of the same group and supplies animal feed manufacturers.
The agency launched an investigation after its Dutch counterpart alerted it last week it to the presence of abnormal levels of dioxin in animal feed containing Belgian pig fat.
No cause for panic
Although there is no cause for panic, precautionary measures had to be taken
"Meat from affected farms was sold in shops… But the fact that dioxin is above the norm in animal feed doesn't automatically mean a direct health risk," said AFSCA spokesperson Pascal Houbaert.
Europe was hit by a similar contamination in 2004, when dioxin, which is widely used in industrial processes, was found in Dutch potato feed.
Even small doses of dioxin are harmful to humans and can even be fatal. But the Belgian agency said that normal consumption of the gelatin in question would deliver less than a quarter of the acceptable daily dose of dioxin.
"Even if the dioxin in meat is above the standard, one (would have to) eat contaminated meat several times a day for a very long period to feel an impact," said Annette Kraft van Ermel of the Dutch food agency VWA. "And this is not the case."
Germany 's meaty problems
Feeding animals with animal fat is punishable by German law. If the meat samples from the potentially affected farms in the German federal states of Brandenburg, North Rhein - Westphalia and Thuringia meet health and safety norms, the farm closure orders will be lifted. If not, the states will have to take legal action against the farms in question.
Germany is no stranger to meat scandals
The dioxin scare comes at a rather inopportune moment for Germany. After continuing reports about out-of-date meat being sold across the country, the German Consumer Protection Agency opened on Wednesday a new hotline for reporting rotten meat. The agency said the hotline would allow authorities to move quickly to investigate suspect meat on-site.
The move comes just days after a new rotten meat scandal erupted in the southern German state of Bavaria. Authorities there said a wholesaler of game meat had sold tainted products and falsely passed off one type of meat for another. The firm, Berger Wild, which registered for insolvency on Tuesday, supplied meat not just to nearly all German states, but also to the fellow EU countries of Austria, France and Italy. Following the announcement, officials confiscated large quantities of suspicious deliveries from the company in several states, as well as Austria.