High levels of dioxins–chemical toxins that are byproducts of waste incineration–have shown up in eggs and animal feed in Germany in what news reports describe as a spreading scandal. 

In the past few days, some 1,000 farms in Lower Saxony and dozens of farms in neighboring Rhine-Westphalia have been quarantined after levels of dioxin exceeding mandatory limits were found at poultry and pig farms. 

Authorities say their investigation so far points to dioxin-contaminated oil meant for industrial use in biofuels somehow being substituted for vegetable fats as the feed was being processed.

About 8,000 laying hens that ate the contaminated feed have been destroyed, and as many as 120,000 eggs recalled, most of which were sold before Dec. 23, although on Tuesday there were concerns that dioxin-tainted eggs could still be on store shelves.

The BBC reported that a prosecutor in Schleswig Holstein in northern German was initiating preliminary legal proceedings against Harles and Jentzsch, which supplied the feed, although a statement from the company implicated Petrotec AG, a biodiesel plant. That company said the Dutch intermediary had been told the oil was not intended for food or feed use.

North Rhine Westphalia’s Consumer Affairs Minister Johannes Remmel said it was “a scandal and there must now also be a discussion about the political consequences,” including compensation for the farms forced to halt sales.

Violation of Germany’s animal feed laws can carry a sentence of up to three years in prisons or a fine, according to a Reuters news account.

So far, the European Commission has taken no steps to halt German food exports because the problem has been limited to Germany.

Dioxins are highly soluble in fat and bio-accumulate in fatty tissue–whether it be human or food animal–and some are known carcinogens. Low level exposure has been linked to a variety of health problems including lower sperm count and neurobehavorial effects.

  • Mary

    Yeah, this is nasty. On a number of levels. But what I can’t grok: why are there dioxins destined for biofuels? I didn’t know this about biofuels. Are we going to have increased dioxin levels if we move to more biofuels? That’s large scale creepy.

  • Kathy

    Mary, grok? Never heard of that.
    I feel fortunate to be vegan, but again, you are correct in wondering about the environment. Industrial by-producta and pollution are most likely still in green industrial production, it is just not well-known. It is still a matter of consumers staying informed and getting transparency from suppliers, that seem unwilling to admit a mistake until it is too costly to un-do.
    see: “Ireland and the European Union on Thursday agreed to a $255 million bailout of Ireland’s pork industry, which is reeling because of the dioxin contamination scandal caused a global recall of all pork last weekend.”
    from: http://www.theda…ilygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/pork-dioxin-recall-47121205#ixzz1AQJofVvF

  • Marie

    What a disgusting waste of food. These places need to be more careful, and that’s an understatement. They need to be heavily fined or shut down if they can’t get it together.