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EC to tighten up dioxin monitoring as UK consumers exposed to tainted food

By Rory Harrington , 10-Jan-2011

The European Commission is exploring ways to boost dioxin monitoring procedures after it was confirmed that products containing the toxic substance had reached the food chain and been sold to UK consumers.

Brussels said it was looking at how to strengthen supply chain safety – including the introduction of a new regulation - in the wake of the worsening German dioxin crisis.

“In the coming weeks, I will explore with our EU partners and stakeholders ways to further strengthen our monitoring processes of dioxin in feed," said EC health commissioner John Dalli.

Cakes and quiches

The news came as the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said that liquid egg tainted with the chemical had entered the food chain after being used in cake and quiche products and sold in supermarkets. The pasteurised liquid egg, imported from the Netherlands, had been partially made with eggs from farms whose animals had been exposed to feed containing industrial fats contaminated with dioxin.

The FSA stressed there was no food safety risk from eating the cakes or quiches and said the “majority of products will have been sold and most have passed their ‘use by’ or ‘best before’ dates”. Supermarkets, including UK leader Tesco, withdrew affected items thought to contain liquid egg from two suppliers Kensey Foods, Cornwall and Finsbury Food Group subsidiary Memory Lane Cakes Ltd, Cardiff.

Emergency meeting

The EC said it had held emergency talks with all industry representatives last week over the tightening up of production rules for fatty acids. Under current rules suppliers are allowed to manufacture fatty acids for industrial and food use at the same site.

Commission health spokesman Frederic Vincent told FoodProductionDaily.com the summit had discussed whether the production of fatty acids for food use and those for industrial use, such as paper processing, should be conducted at separate facilities.

“We had a meeting with stakeholders and fatty acid producers last Wednesday about what could be done to improve the present system,” he said. “We discussed whether to have separation between fats that are produced for industrial uses such as paper and for food use. In a large number of factories, they produce both.”

The EC is considering whether regulation or a voluntary industry code would be necessary to tackle the issue.

The scandal, which is now attracting global concern, began last month when fatty acids meant to be used for technical purposes were incorrectly mixed with vegetable feed fat. These fatty acids were contaminated with dioxins which were than used in the production of the animal feed.

South Korea has become the first country to ban German pork exports, while Russia has insisted that more checks be carried out.

This is the second case of dioxin-contaminated animal feed tainting food in just over two years. In 2008, dioxin contamination of Irish pork products cost the domestic industry an estimated €100m. A total recalled of Irish pork was carried out after routine testing of the food chain there found pig feed tainted with the contaminant.