About 3,000 German farms have been given the green light to re-open as the government vowed Sunday to toughen up on a dioxin poisoning scare that sparked import bans on some of its farm products.
Meanwhile Danish authorities said toxic animal feed from Germany had been purchased by a Danish firm and could be in Denmark, a food official told AFP.
Out of the 4,700 German farms that were closed, “there are now only 1,470 farms barred from deliveries out of the about 4,400” in the region, Lower Saxony’s agriculture ministry said in a statement.
Data has been collected in cooperation with agricultural officials to allow for a “solid analysis” and “identify farms to be sure that products carry no risk for consumers”, said the statement.
Berlin promised to take strict action ahead of talks aimed at preventing a repeat.
“This is a big blow for our farmers. They have totally innocently been dragged into this situation by the sick machinations of a few people,” Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
“The judiciary has to clamp down hard.”
Germany’s farmers’ association plans to seek financial aid for farmers who were forced to suspend deliveries due to the scandal, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported.
Police last week raided a north German firm suspected of knowingly supplying up to 3,000 tonnes of fatty acids meant for industrial use with high levels of potentially carcinogenic dioxins to some 25 animal feed makers.
Tests on samples from the company, Harles und Jentzsch, showed nine samples out of 20 had dioxin levels higher, or much higher, than permitted, with one batch 78 times the legal limit.
Its 25 customer companies then reportedly delivered up to 150,000 tonnes of contaminated feed to thousands of farms — mostly those producing eggs and rearing poultry and pigs — across large parts of Germany.
“There are many things that makes us believe that the company cheated its clients and transformed fatty acids of poor quality into feed for expensive livestock,” Lower Saxony’s agriculture ministry recently said.
The ministry plans to control all manufacturers that use fatty acids in their animal feed in the region.
Germany late Thursday had banned some 4,700 of its 375,000 farms from selling products pending test results, destroying more than 100,000 eggs and launching recall actions.
The German government has moved to curb fears by saying tests conducted so far indicate that there is no immediate risk to public health, this despite tests showing meat from two chickens with dioxin levels above the norm.
South Korea, Slovakia and Russia have suspended sales or stepped up controls on food of animal origin from Germany.
Although Berlin had said that none of the contaminated feed was exported, and just 136,000 eggs — annual output is 10 billion eggs — went abroad, Danish authorities on Sunday warned that poisoned feed may have entered Denmark.
“We know that one firm in Denmark has bought some feed from one of the German establishments, and that it could contain dioxin,” said Kim Vandrup Sigsgaard, who heads the alert unit for food at the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.
The feed was for animals not intended for human consumption. “It is for breeder hens (which) … are not destined to be eaten,” he said.
He said an investigation would be launched in Denmark and that it was not certain the German feed had been delivered to its Danish purchaser.
“I think it’s in Denmark because it was purchased in November,” he said.
Authorities were alerted to the purchase Sunday by a European Union food safety system, the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, Vandrup Sigsgaard added.
He could not name the German feed maker and said the Danish firm could not be identified until it had been notified.