Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany are scrambling to detect and remove from circulation tonnes of feed potentially contaminated with aflatoxin, according to recent press report . The source is presumed to be a consignment of 45,000 million tonnes of corn imported from Serbia and distributed by Toepfer.
Approximately 10,000 tonnes of the suspect batch was distributed to 13 feed mills in Northern Germany resulting in delivery of feed to 4,000 farms in Lower Saxony and numerous small operations in seven other states. Product was also shipped to the Netherlands where trace-forward is in progress.
The affected consignment allegedly assays at 200 ppb aflatoxin, approximately 10 times the permitted level. This corn would raise the level of aflatoxin-M in milk above the US statutory limit of 0.5 ppb at even low levels of dietary inclusion. Now concern over contamination is leading to widespread recall of dairy products in the affected regions, reminiscent of previous dioxin and PCB contamination episodes.
The Swiss surveying company SGS, SA. detected contamination in Serbian corn back in December 2012. Their findings were initially rejected by the Serbian Department of Agriculture. It is worth noting that the 2012 corn crop in Serbia was subjected to severe drought, reducing the harvest by 45%.
This should have alerted the importers in Germany to the possibility of contamination. The current situation appears to denote either gross negligence or profit-motivated disregard of consequences on the part of the importer/distributor.
As with previous EU feed contamination scandals the primary and contributory caused will be revealed in due course by independent statutory inquiries. What matters now is to identify and remove the affected ingredients and feeds from commerce. In this task EU authorities unfortunately have plenty of experience! Restoration of consumer confidence is a slower process.
Could it happen in the US? Possibly, but it would be unlikely on such a broad scale as in the EU. The 2012 crop which was affected by drought has been extensively screened and any “hot regions” identified. Feed manufacturers are aware of their legal and moral obligations to their customers and integrators are conscious of the consequences of feeding contaminated ingredients to their herds and flocks.