Germany has promised tough action in the wake of a dioxin scare that has led to bans on German products in several countries. About 3,000 farms out of 4,700 that were closed were given the green light Sunday to re-open.
One in five Germans are avoiding eggs
The German government vowed on Sunday to take tough legal action against those responsible for the dioxin poisoning scare that has led to import bans on some of its farm products.
Ilse Aigner, Germany's agriculture minister, told the weekly newspaper Bild am Sonntag that the case needs to be thoroughly investigated.
"This is a big blow for our farmers. They have totally innocently been dragged into this situation by the sick machinations of a few people," she said.
"From the information we have so far, it is tough to shake off the suspicion that criminal energy has been combined with alarming unscrupulousness," she added. "The judiciary has to clamp down hard."
Aigner is due to meet with feed suppliers and farmers' associations on Monday to discuss possible consequences.
On Sunday, some 3,000 German farms were given the go-ahead to re-open, according to the state of Lower Saxony's agriculture ministry. A total of 4,700 had been closed due to the toxic feed scare.
Contamination detected in March
Police searched the firm Harles and Jentzsch earlier this week
Early in January, German investigators uncovered excessive levels of the cancer-causing chemical dioxin in eggs and some chicken meat. The chemical was traced back to company Harles and Jentzsch, which is suspected of supplying up to 3,000 tons of fatty acids meant only for industrial use to 25 animal feed makers.
The agriculture ministry in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, where Harles and Jentzsch is located, said tests by the firm in March had already revealed high dioxin levels but the findings were not reported to authorities.
Tests carried out on Friday showed nine samples out of 20 had dioxin levels much higher than permitted, with one showing levels at 78 times the legal limit.
The 25 affected feed makers have reportedly delivered up to 150,000 tons of contaminated product to farms producing eggs, poultry and pork meat across Germany. Since the discovery, more than 4,000 farms have been shut down.
Farmers' associations have demanded compensation
No grounds for export ban: EU
The contaminated products have made their way to the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, and several countries have since banned imports of German farm products, including Slovakia and South Korea.
Russia said Saturday that it had increased controls on food of animal origin from Germany and also from other EU countries, without giving further details.
The European Commission has said there are no grounds for a ban on exports of German products and on Saturday called the import restrictions by South Korea "out of proportion."
The German government has said tests conducted so far on eggs and meat products indicate that there is no immediate risk to public health. But a poll published by Bild am Sonntag showed that at least 21 percent of Germans are avoiding eggs because of the scandal.
Author: Martin Kuebler (AFP, AP, dpa)
Editor: Kyle James