BERLIN (AP) — Germany will tighten quality controls for the production of livestock feed after illegal levels of a cancer-causing chemical were found in poultry and pork products, officials said Friday, as the country struggled to restore confidence in its products.
New regulations are aimed at preventing toxic chemicals from entering the food chain, said Ilse Aigner, the consumer protection and agriculture minister. Germany has been cooperating with the European Union in its efforts to increase food quality standards, she said.
"Germany must be able to ensure that all products on the market are safe for consumption," Aigner said.
Authorities halted the sale of products from more than 4,700 farms and slaughtered hundreds of animals after regular tests revealed dioxin levels several times legal levels in eggs. Most of the farms have since been cleared and allowed to resume selling their products, but South Korea and China maintained bans on imports of German pork and poultry.
Aigner said German diplomats are working hard to prevent any more nations from taking action.
"We are doing everything we can so there won't be a third country" that halts the import of German farm products, Aigner said.
Ministry expert Bernhard Kuehnle said authorities had determined that meat products from animals that consumed dioxin-contaminated feed had been delivered to neighboring Poland and the Czech Republic, but there was no way to recall them because they had most likely already been consumed.
Slovakia temporarily halted imports of German products earlier this month, but has since resumed, while food safety officials in Italy and Britain had investigated German eggs and poultry.
Kuehnle insisted that at no time have the dioxin levels posed a danger to people's health.
Authorities have traced the infected feed to Harles & Jentzsch GmbH, which is under investigation by prosecutors in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein. The company, which filed for bankruptcy this week, is suspected of using tainted fat to make pellets that were then sold to farmers to feed their livestock.
Under the new regulations, Aigner said the number of checks on ingredients used in the production of feed would be increased. Companies will also be forced to separate oils and fats for use in industrial purposes from those in animal feed.
Private testing laboratories will also be legally required to report any abnormalities found in feed.