Feed makers on trial for cadmium contamination

17-06-2009 | |

In 2004 and 2005, more than 5.000 French farmers saw animals poisoned by cadmium, a toxic heavy metal. This week, leaders of three companies involved in the contamination stood trial in Saint-Brieuc.



Between September 2004 and April 2005, this heavy metal was present in animal feed at a 300-fold quantity above regulatory limits. In total, tens and tens of thousands of sheep, cattle, poultry and pigs that have been contaminated.

Zinc sulphate from China
The case began in early 2005, when farmer clients of the dairy company Retiers, a subsidiary of Lactalis, reported loss of appetite in animals. Quickly, the feed supplier discovered the origin of evil. First the trail led to premix supplier MG2Mix, then to Odifa specializing in the manufacture of nitrogen products.

In September 2004, Odifa had imported 120 tons of zinc sulfate from China, destined for use in animal feed.At the arrival of the order, no control was made to check the cadmium content. Until April 2005, some 68 tonnes of zinc sulphate were sold to ten feed manufacturers (including MG2Mix). When they became aware of the intoxication, Management of Lactalis, MG2Mix and Odifa decided to inform their insurers, but not the authorities. They also recalled not yet used products from their customers, but without explaining why.

Everything could have calmed down December 2005 if the Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) had not detected a cadmium content of 1.500mg/kg in cattle feed, where the rules only allow 5mg/kg. In the weeks and months, the investigators of DGCCRF were able to trace the case to Odifa.

600 € test would have avoided everything
At the hearing before the Correctional Court of Saint-Brieuc, managers of Odifa, Lactalis and MG2Mix, were prosecuted for "misrepresentation of the product", which did represent the facts. Questioned by defence counsel, the former boss of Odifa said that an analysis at a cost of €600 would have disclosed the cadmium content.

If the court follows the indictment of the prosecutor, he must pay, at worst, a suspended fine. Like his two co-defendants. Trial on 30 July. 

Emmy Koeleman Freelance editor