In Northern Germany about 1,000 poultry and pig farms have been temporarily quarantined due to an in-feed dioxin scam. At least one, but possibly up to nine feed manufacturers may be involved.
Patrick Vanden Avenne, President of European feed millers association Fefac, expressed his satisfaction that the compound feed industry's own-control programmes led to the discovery in Germany.
The contamination by dioxins of fatty acids came from a biodiesel manufacturer who has processed used cooking oils. These products, which have been declared “for technical use only”, were used in the production of fats destined to the feed chain.
Vanden Avenne pointed to the fact that all compound feed companies which have received batches of the contaminated feed fats are fully cooperating with the competent authorities to trace all farms that could have been delivered compound feed containing the contaminated fats.
Quarantine and culling
In the state of Lower Saxony alone, about 1,000 farms (layer hens, broilers or pigs) as a precautionary measure have been quarantined last Monday. Suppliers were forced to suspend deliveries amid ongoing checks.
In another state, North Rhine Westphalia, about 8,000 layer hens were culled. The state's agricultural ministry found increased levels of dioxin at one of its laboratory tests. In one case, levels were four times the allowed rate.
The research into the layer hens will be extended for that reason, the ministry announced.
The dioxin eggs have been traced to originate from a farm with multiple poultry houses near the town of Soest. These farms will be blocked. Tests into a different egg farm in the neighbourhood of the town of Steinfurt have not been finished yet.
The dioxin is believed to have stemmed from feed contaminated with industrial fats. Authorities believe these fats were substituted for vegetable fats at some point in the tainted feed's manufacturing process.
German feed manufacturer Harles & Jentzsch first alerted authorities of levels of dioxin being present in the feed. The manufacturer points a finger towards a biodiesel producer called Petrotec, although this company has already denied allegations of being guilty of the dioxin scandal.
Petrotec says it only delivered raw materials to the feed manufacturer, insisting that these materials only be used for technical purposes (e.g. soap), not as a feed or food ingredient.
More than one animal feed company may have been receiving deliveries including dioxin contaminated fats, and possibly nine manufacturers in the states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Hamburg would be involved.
Criminals or negligence
The Minister for Consumer Affairs in North Rhine Westphalia, Johannes Remmel, told a local newspaper that the contamination must either be the work of criminals or the result of extreme negligence.
German authorities have added no contaminated feed has been transported to the neighbouring Netherlands. It's unclear if contaminated eggs have entered the Dutch market.
Vanden Avenne highlighted that the implementation by the compound feed industry of own-control programmes has substantially improved its capacity to detect dioxin contaminations entering the feed material supply chain.
“Such incidents are regrettable and should not occur, given the track record of past contamination incidents. However, the highly unusual dioxin congener profile indicates a different, yet unknown contamination pathway in the biodiesel industry, which must be verified without delay,” he said.
The Fefac president also stressed the need to further improve traceability systems and testing plans at the level of suppliers of blended fats and mixed fatty acids, in particular when such companies are also manufacturing products for technical use.