Dioxin Contamination of Animal Feed Closes European Farms

BRUSSELS, Belgium, November 5, 2004 (ENS) - Fear of dioxin contamination in European foods spread today on reports that Dutch potato by-products tainted with the cancer causing chemical had been sold to farmers in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany.

More than 160 farms have been closed in the Netherlands and Belgium after dioxin was found in dairy products. All of those farms reportedly had received shipments of animal feed which contained potato by-products from Canadian frozen potato chip fries manufacturer McCain that were contaminated with dioxin.

McCain, which has launched an investigation, sells its potato peels for use in animal feed. The company said its own frozen foods products are not tainted.

McCain's office in the Netherlands says its fries and other potato products contain "none" of the dioxin contaminated peels. Because the cattle fodder material in its factories is "strictly separated" from other product flows, it is impossible that potatoes intended for human food have been contaminated.

After the discovery of dioxin contaminated potato by-products in the Netherlands, the European Commission has been co-ordinating the tracing of the chain of deliveries through the European Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed.

cows

Dutch cows may have been fed potato by-products contaminated with dioxin. (Photo credit unknown)
As a result, all movement of animals from 162 farms in the Netherlands, eight in Belgium and three in Germany, which received the animal feed, has been blocked by European authorities. The national authorities of the member states concerned are currently tracing the food chain.

"Consumer health and safety is not called into question at present," the Commission said.

Health Commissioner David Byrne said today, “Member state authorities and the Commission are co-operating closely to ensure that safety of consumer is not jeopardized. Together we will act swiftly yet responsibly. So far, our system of traceability and alert notifications is working well. It is vital that the confidence of the consumer in our food chain is maintained.”

Tracing the products through the food chain has revealed that the Dutch branch of McCain used so-called potato separator clay from a German company to separate high quality potatoes from lower quality ones. This clay bath was found to be contaminated by dioxins and appears to have in turn contaminated the potato peels, used for animal feeding.

Movement of animals from the farms that have obtained the animal feed have been temporarily blocked by national authorities. Sampling and analysis of the potato by-products delivered to the farms as well as of the farms’ products of animal origin is ongoing.

Results should disclose in the coming days whether restrictions on some farms can be lifted.

Meat and dairy products from affected livestock would be withdrawn from sale, officials said.

So far, analysis of the Dutch company’s potato products intended for human consumption indicates that they do not contain unacceptable levels of dioxin, the Commission said.

The Commission has asked for the distribution list of the German clay company to verify whether more food operators purchased the clay to separate foods.

In addition, the Commission has requested all 25 European member states to investigate whether separation processes using clay are current practice within their territories.