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German risk agency calms dioxin scare

20-Jan-2005

German food agency seeks to calm consumers after high levels of potential carcinogenic dioxins identified in free range eggs.

Eggs with high dioxin levels were found in several German states because hens were allowed to roam on land contaminated with the chemicals.

But in a statement this week, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) said there was no need 'to forego eating free-range eggs since in general they only account for a comparatively small proportion of man's exposure to dioxins from food.'

Dioxins are long-lasting environmental pollutants formed as unwanted by-products of combustion processes, such as waste incineration, bonfires and cigarette smoke.

Concerns about the impact of these pollutants on human health are rooted in the potential risk to health evolving from long-term consumption of foods with high levels of dioxins.

The BfR sought to reassure German consumers concerned by media reports that expensive organic eggs from free range hens are more likely to be contaminated.

"Compared to other foods of animal origin like milk, meat or fish the eggs only raise the total daily intake of dioxin insignificantly," the risk assessor said this week.

But since the dioxin intake by human beings is still higher than the precautionary health value aimed for by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the BfR agreed that there is an ongoing need for all measures which can effectively reduce overall exposure.

The German Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast has called for tighter controls on free range eggs.

"We must have a firmer environmental policy," she told German newspaper Berliner Zeitung.

WHO states the intake level which should not be exceeded daily on precautionary grounds as 1 picogram dioxin equivalents per kilogram body weight and day (1 pg/kg bw/day) and the tolerable daily intake as 1 to 4 pg/kg bw/day.

"Average daily intake is still almost 2 pg/kg body weight a day and thus continues to be above the precautionary value aimed for by WHO," the BfR comments.

European life science firm Eurofins announced today that is has acquired ERGO in Hamburg, Germany. One of the largest dioxin-testing laboratories in Germany with €2 million in annual sales, the new addition will make Eurofins the largest dioxin-testing laboratory worldwide, it claims.

"Together with GfA, Oekometric and MPU, Eurofins now carries out more than 15,000 analyses of dioxins and furans per year."

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