HAMBURG (Reuters) - Germany on Wednesday approved a plan to enforce higher standards in animal feed production after the discovery of toxic chemical dioxin in feed, which has triggered a health alert and hit sales of German eggs and pork.
German and European Union authorities are struggling to contain the alert which began on January 3, when German officials said feed tainted with the highly poisonous dioxin had been fed to hens and pigs, contaminating eggs, poultry meat and pork at the affected farms.
The German cabinet approved an action plan announced by German Farm Minister Ilse Aigner on Friday, Aigner told a televised sitting of the German parliament.
“This scandal will have consequences,” she said.
There will be a new licensing system for producers of oils and fats for animal feed use plus a compulsory separation of oils and fats output for use in industrial and animal feed, she said.
Animal feed producers will also be compelled to take out extra insurance as part of moves to raise standards in the industry.
The plan also involves a new requirement that animal feed producers test their ingredients themselves and give all test results to the authorities.
Private testing laboratories which discover suspect components in animal feed or food will also have a duty to report the findings.
An early warning system will also be created for dioxin testing by pooling test results in a data bank. Inspections of animal feed makers by regional state authorities will be intensified.
Germany will also press for the European Union to introduce a positive list of permitted animal feed ingredients instead of a list of banned substances.
Prosecutors in Germany are investigating the cause of the contamination and specifically whether industrial fats and feeds company Harles and Jentzsch distributed fatty acids meant for industrial paper production to animal feed processors.
The company has declared insolvency.
Aigner told parliament that a total of 4,760 farms had been closed at the height of the alert but the total had now dropped to 931.
She appealed to parliament to pass new legislation quickly to enable the new regulations to take force rapidly.
Dioxins are poisons formed by burning waste and through other industrial processes, which have been shown to contribute to increased cancer rates and to affect pregnant women.
Reporting by Michael Hogan; editing by Keiron Henderson