Czech farm lobby calls for ban on dioxin risk German food imports

Photo: CTK

A new food safety scare has prompted calls from the biggest organization representing Czech farmers to close the border to imports from neighbouring Germany. The organization says this is the most sensible step until the real risk from such imports can be established.

Photo: CTK
Germany’s food safety scare exploded last week when it was revealed that feed contaminated with cancer causing dioxins had made its way into eggs and poultry. Since then, the scale of the threatened health risk has just grown and grown.

While at first it was thought that just around 500 tonnes of an animal feed additive were contaminated, that total has now shot up to 3,000 tonnes. More than half of Germany’s 16 regions have been affected by the food crisis with worries that eggs, poultry and pork have been contaminated. Checks are being made to ascertain if eggs exported to the Netherlands were tainted by dioxin and may have been used in the production of other foodstuffs.

Jan Veleba, photo: CTK
For Czechs farmers the growing scandal is a signal that a ban should be imposed on German exports of at-risk foods. This is what the Jan Veleba, the president of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, had to say on Thursday.

“I would personally recommend that borders are simply closed so that these goods do not get out of the country. The European Commission can order that. It is analyzing the situation and yesterday had not come to that conclusion. But I believe that this conclusion will have to be reached and that this is a likely step.”

The Czech Republic now finds itself in an exposed position as regards pork imports with many of the collective farms that used the feed the nation’s passion for pork chops and cutlets now long gone. Foreign pork now meets around half national demand with Germany the biggest single deliverer of the 200,000 tonnes of imported pig meat a year.

Czech food safety inspectors say they are making preventive checks on imports to check whether any contaminated food could have got into the country. Initial inspections were focused on eggs and chicken. But for Mr. Veleba the best precaution that worried Czechs can take is to buy Czech produce.

The factory in Ütersen, Germany, suspected of contamination of animal feed by dioxins, photo: CTK
The German dioxin food scare is the latest in a run of such health scandals in Europe over the last decade. Similar cases of contaminated feed have cropped up in the Netherlands, Ireland and several times in Belgium. In one Belgian case, authorities at first tried to cover up the scandal with it only being revealed by the media after a more than four month time lag since the first official warnings.