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Dioxin-contaminated liquid egg distributed in UK

By Rory Harrington, 07-Jan-2011

Related topics: Policy

Eggs from farms affected by dioxin-contaminated feed have been and mixed with products to be used in processed foods and exported into the UK, food safety officials said yesterday.

The European Commission confirmed that a number of the 136,000 eggs originally sold into the Netherlands from German farms involved in the contamination have been used to make liquid pasteurised egg distributed in the UK.

Frederic Vincent, EC health spokesman, said a14.5 tonne-consignment of the liquid egg had been shipped into the UK, although it was currently unknown the number of products affected.

Liquid egg is typically used in a host of bakery products such as pastries and sponge cakes, as well as in mayonnaise and ice-cream.

“The mixing of the eggs will have diluted the levels of dioxins and they are not thought to be a risk to health”, the UK Food Standards Agency said as it confirmed it was talking to industry players to assess the full fallout from the situation.

Farm closures

The news came as German authorities announced that more than 4,700 farms in the country had now been closed as a result of the contamination scandal that came to light at the end of last month. Most of the affected pig and poultry farms are in Lower Saxony region, in north-west Germany.

The incident, which is the most serious in the EU for a number of years, began when fatty acids meant to be used for technical purposes such as paper processing, 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. The original source of the dioxin tainting remains unknown.

The contaminated feed was distributed to farms in several areas of Germany. As hens consumed the contaminated compound feed, higher levels of dioxins than those permitted by EU law were found in poultry meat and eggs. Authorities believe that up to 3,000 tones of contaminated feed could have been sold.

While authorities have stressed there is no immediate threat to human health. Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have the potential to cause damage to the immune and reproductive systems if they are absorbed into our bodies at high levels for long periods.