Member nations in the European Union oversee food safety within their own territories, but the European Commission coordinates among the EU states when problems arise that cross borders.
So the EU announced Monday that it will send a team to Germany to examine how animal feed became tainted with the dioxin, and the subsequent steps Germany took to trace and stem the contamination. EU agriculture ministers will discuss the dioxin scandal on January 24, officials said.
The international scare erupted when a German company–which now has declared bankruptcy–mixed dioxin-tainted industrial oil with oil intended for animal feed.
According to various reports, dioxin-contaminated eggs got into the UK and the Netherlands, and pork from farms suspected to have received the tainted feed was sent to Poland and the Czech Republic. Denmark, France and Italy were also thought to have received possibly contaminated goods. South Korean and China banned imports of German pork and poultry, although the EU said there was no justification for those bans.
At they tried to contain the problem, German authorities temporarily barred some 5,000 farms from selling eggs, poultry and pork. All but several hundred were subsequently cleared and allowed to resume business, when over the weekend an additional 934 farms had to be closed after officials learned that a company in Lower Saxony had failed to disclose it had delivered dioxin-contaminated feed to them.
The exasperated German Agriculture Minister, Ilse Aigner, called that “a scandal within the scandal.”
The German government has said the trace amounts of dioxin detected in food as a result of the feed contamination have posed no immediate threat to human health. There is evidence, however, that long-term exposure to dioxin may lead to a range of health issues, including cancer.
Late last week the German ministry called for stricter regulation of animal feed, including requiring separation of industrial fats and fats for feed/food use, as well as more extensive inspections and reporting requirements for feed producers.
The EU has said it may consider “a legal requirement for reinforced controls on dioxins at different stages of the feed chain.”