Dioxin feed spreads to France and Denmark

France and Denmark were the latest countries drawn into Germany's dioxin food scare on Monday, after an EU official said tainted animal feed had been exported from Germany to both countries.

German and European Union authorities are struggling to contain the health alert, which began when German officials announced on Jan. 3 that dioxin-tainted feed had been fed to hens and pigs, contaminating eggs and meat at the affected farms.

"In Denmark these products were used for breeder hens, which are not in fact marketed (for human consumption)," said Frederic Vincent, European Commission health and consumer spokesman, at a daily press briefing in Brussels.

"In the case of France, in the lot exported, apparently the concentration of dioxin was lower than the maximum authorised concentration allowed in EU law for animal feed," Vincent added.

That followed confirmation last week that eggs from German farms which had used the contaminated feed had been exported to the Netherlands, and some were subsequently processed and shipped to Britain for human consumption.

The Commission and Germany's agriculture ministry on Monday denied reports that EU member state Slovakia had followed South Korea in imposing an import ban on meat from Germany because of the scare.

"To date, the only country which has suspended imports from Germany is South Korea. To the best of our knowledge no other  countries have taken measures affecting European or, in particular, German products," Vincent said.

Russia has said it might impose tougher controls on German exports, but Vincent said the Commission was not aware that any action had yet been taken by Moscow.

On Saturday, Russia's food safety authority Rosselkhoznadzor said it was not happy with the level of information being received from Germany and the EU, and said it reserved the right to impose restrictions if necessary.

Prosecutors in Germany are investigating the cause of the contamination, and specifically whether feed additive company Harles and Jentzsch distributed fatty acids meant for industrial paper production to animal feed processors.

The number of German farms sealed-off dropped to 1,635 on Monday, with more expected to reopen in the coming days, after 4,700 were initially shut down last week and thousands of hens culled in eight German states to contain the contamination.

The Commission insisted that the levels of dioxin found in contaminated eggs and meat did not present an immediate danger to human health.

German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner said on Monday the government was looking at tightening regulations on feed suppliers in the wake of the incident

"There's no reason to panic but also no reason to relax yet either," Aigner told a news conference, adding: "The people who did this were irresponsible and unscrupulous."

EU officials are due to meet feed producers and other industry representatives later on Monday to discuss how to ensure separation of fats produced for industrial use and animal feed, either through voluntary industry action or new EU rules.

On Tuesday German officials are due to brief their EU counterparts in Brussels on the latest developments in the contamination incident, and are likely to face questions on the root cause of the incident and their response to it.

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

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