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Contaminated eggs exported to Netherlands

BERLIN, Jan 6 – Eggs potentially containing toxic dioxin that caused a health scare in Germany were exported to the Netherlands, amid concerns they ended up in processed foods such as mayonnaise, authorities said on Wednesday.

"We don\’t know if the eggs were contaminated" by dioxin, said Frederic Vincent, a spokesman for the European Health Commissioner John Dalli.

"These eggs weren\’t destined for direct consumption but for industrial use," said the spokesman.

The two non-named firms that received the eggs could thus have used them in processed foods such as mayonnaise or instant cakes.

According to the Commission\’s latest information, no contaminated food of animal origin had been traded or exported to other member states or third countries with the exception of the two batches of potentially contaminated eggs to the Netherlands.

Germany\’s agriculture ministry had said earlier that a total of 136,000 eggs were delivered to a firm in the Netherlands from the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt.

The amount concerned is however tiny, with total annual production in Europe\’s biggest economy around 10 billion eggs, according to official figures.

"We are not aware at present of any other deliveries to other (European Union) member states," agriculture ministry spokesman Holger Eichele told a regular government briefing.

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"I would stress that we still do not know the source of this dioxin contamination and that there are only suspicions so far. Therefore we would warn against hasty conclusions," Eichele said.

The scare has resulted in more than 1,000 farms in Germany\’s northwestern state of Lower Saxony alone being told to stop production while tests take place. There are around 375,000 farms in Germany.

A German firm is alleged to have supplied up to 3,000 tonnes of contaminated fatty acids meant only for industrial usage to around 25 animal feed makers in five of Germany\’s 16 states, including Saxony-Anhalt, Eichele said.

Tens of thousands of tonnes of feed containing the ingredient were then delivered to farms with chickens, other poultry and pigs, in eight states including Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous.

The agriculture ministry spokesman said there were no indications that the suspect ingredient or any potentially tainted feed was exported.

Police raided the firm concerned, Harles und Jentzsch, in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, on Wednesday, a spokesman for the public prosecutors\’ office said.

Dioxin, a by-product of burning rubbish and industrial activities, can cause miscarriages and other health problems in humans, including cancer.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said the government would discuss with state governments possible changes to the law ensuring that the production of ingredients for animal feed and industrial products is kept separate.

"A comprehensive monitoring system is in place," Aigner said. "What is decisive is that the feed and food are taken out of the market. This is being done right now."

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Meanwhile the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) downplayed the risk to human health from the possible contamination.

"There is no acute health danger for consumers," the BfR said on its website.

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