Why is dioxin a problem? Dioxins are highly toxic and carcinogenic (cause cancer). Dioxins are a by-product of industrial production in industries such as chemical and pesticide manufacture, paper bleaching. We have had food safety incidents in the past with this chemical. In 1999, dioxin was found in European animal feed which sparked a continent wide recall centred on Belgium. In 2004, there was another incident with milk in Belgium and the Netherlands and this was believed to have been due to animal feed that was contaminated with potato byproducts.
The Telegraph reports that a 14 tonne consignment of egg white thought to be contaminated with dioxin was shipped to the UK from Holland on December 12. The egg white was due to be sold food manufacturers for use in pastries, mayonnaise and cakes. The contamination occurred in Germany, where 3,000 tonnes of animal feed contaminated with dioxin - which was sent to more than 1,000 poultry and pig farms. Eggs from some of the farms were then exported to Holland for processing. The reports are vague on whether this product has actually entered the UK food chain.
BBC News reports that more than 4,700 German farms have now been closed. Most of the affected farms are in Lower Saxony region, north-west Germany. Last week, more than 1,000 farms were banned from selling eggs after dioxin was found in eggs and poultry. It is believed that the animal feed was contaminated after being distributed by a company in northern Germany which supplies additives for animal feed. The dioxin was discovered in late December, but the extent of the problem was only revealed earlier this week when German officials said 3,000 tonnes of feed had been affected. Germany's agriculture ministry said on Thursday that most of the closed farms were ones producing pigs. The ministry said the farms would not be allowed to make any deliveries until they had been checked and found to be clear of contamination. WattAgNet reports that "The German Farmers' Association is calling for compensation after the discovery of excessive amounts of dioxin in the products and animal feeds of Harles & Jentzsch GmbH". A byproduct from biofuel production was probably used as an ingredient for feed ingredient manufacture. Check out the detailed report on this by thelocal.de.
The UK FSA has also issued a statement.
I have written before about having an effective product recall procedure in place and the interaction between food safety and brand equity. Food safety incidents, such as this one, require an effective, co-ordinated response in order to maintain customer confidence and to underpin the supply chain.