Moral Low Ground


Corporate Cover-Up Reported as German Dioxin Scare Goes Global

Countries across Europe and even as far afield as Russia and South Korea are dealing with the fallout of a massive dioxin scare that originated in Germany when an animal feed corporation allegedly knowingly sold tainted animal fat to farmers. The farmers then fed their livestock the dioxin-tainted feed, passing the cancer and birth defect-causing chemical up the food chain until the contamination reached human consumers.

Slovakia announced it has temporarily suspended sales of poultry, meat and eggs from Germany, becoming the first European Union (EU) country to impose restrictions on German agricultural imports. South Korea has also banned the importation of German pork and poultry products. South Korean officials say they are quarantining and testing German meat products. Russian authorities also announced more stringent import controls. The Italian health minister has asked all farmers who import eggs, milk or meat from Germany to check for dioxin levels and Britain and the Netherlands have launched their own food safety investigations.

In Britain, supermarket giants Tesco, Morrison’s and Sainsbury have removed cakes, quiches and other egg products from their shelves after confirming they were contaminated with dioxin from German eggs that made their way into Britain via Dutch farms.

EU authorities say the amount of dioxin in the products isn’t enough to harm human health. “You would have to eat a lot of eggs or a lot of processed products made with these eggs, in order for this to actually pose a risk to human health,” said European Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent. Still, lab tests in Germany have turned up dioxin levels nearly 80 times the legal limit.

German investigators have now detected excessive levels of dioxin in chickens as well as in eggs. This should come as no surprise since 3,000 tons of chicken feed was found to have been contaminated as well. As a result, more than 4,700 farms there have been temporarily closed, 8,000 chickens have been killed,  and the German Farmers’ Association estimates losses could reach $70 million a week.

The scare began when random testing detected elevated levels of dioxin in eggs in western Germany. The trail led to Harles and Jentzsch, a German company reported to have detected high dioxin levels in animal fat back in March of 2010.

“If it is confirmed that the company knew since March that its fat was tainted but did not inform authorities then that is highly criminal activity,” German agriculture minister Ilse Aigner told Germany’s n-tv. Harles and Jentzsch is being investigated and criminal charges are indeed possible. The company may also be guilty of fraud and tax evasion. A spokesman for the ministry of agriculture in the German state of Lower Saxony says there is evidence that the company knowingly mixed industrial fat used to make biodiesel with fat sold for animal feed, for which they can charge twice as much.

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