Food Law News - EU - 2011

Commission Speech (SPEECH/11/24), 17 January 2011

CONTAMINANTS - "Dioxin incident: what new measures could we envisage?" Sppech by John DALLI Member of the European Commission, responsible for Health and Consumer Policy

This is the proposed text of a speech given to the European Parliament Plenary Session, Strasbourg, 17 January 2011, 17:30. The deleivered version may not be the same.

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,

As you are well aware, the new year started with a serious incident of dioxin contamination of animal feed in Germany.

The Commission services have been monitoring developments closely and in full co-operation with the competent German authorities. I have already started reflecting on possible measures, which will ensure that our high-level Food and Feed Safety system will become even more efficient.

But let me start with the facts of the incident first:

The incident came to light when a compound feed manufacturer notified the German competent authorities on 22 December 2010, after having received the analytical result from a laboratory that a sample was found to be non-compliant with EU-legislation after a self control test.

Between Middle of November and Middle of December of last year, a biodiesel manufacturer delivered seven consignments of fatty acids intended for technical purposes to a feed fat manufacturer who also produces fats for technical use. This latter company was at the same time a registered feed fat manufacturer. Apparently blending of feed grade fat and technical fat took place.

Four of these consignments, delivered in the second half of November, were later found to be contaminated with dioxins. The other three, delivered to feed mills in the first half of December 2010, were not contaminated. However, until this was verified and for purely precautionary reasons, all consignments were regarded, and treated as, potentially contaminated. A total of almost 2300 tons of potentially contaminated feed fat was delivered to 25 feed manufacturers in Germany. No deliveries of feed fat were made outside Germany.

Between 100,000 and 200,000 tons of feed, containing 2 to 10 % of the potentially contaminated fat, were delivered to about 4800 farms in Germany. As a strictly precautionary measure, all farms were blocked - their commercial activity suspended. They were laying hen, fattening poultry, goose, pig, dairy cattle, bovine and rabbit farms. Some deliveries of potentially contaminated feed for breeding hens were also made to France and Denmark.

No food of animal origin from the blocked farms can be placed on the market until the farms are unblocked. This can only happen after it is ensured, through analytical results and investigations, that the farms are not contaminated at levels above those provided by EU law. Currently, about 940 farms – mostly poultry and pig establishments – remain blocked.

It appears that no contaminated food was traded or exported from Germany since the incident was notified, with a few exceptions. In the end, analytical results showed that the products were compliant with EU legislation. This is an example of the effectiveness of the EU's traceability systems put in place. And we will continue to be vigilant in this respect.

The fortunate element of this incident is that the observed levels of dioxins in food, where EU limits were exceeded, have not been very high. Therefore, no immediate health risk for the consumer is expected as a result of the consumption of contaminated products during a short period of time.

What has the Commission done to help manage the incident?

My services have been in constant contact with the German authorities and immediately disseminated all information to Member States through the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). They have also been in touch with the competent authorities in third countries providing a clear picture of the incident to our trade partners.

Moreover, Commission officials met with stakeholders in the fats and oils industry to explore ways of further strengthening the monitoring of dioxin in feed.

I personally contacted the German Federal Minister for Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Mrs. Aigner, on the 6th of January and we exchanged views on what needs to be done to avoid similar contamination incidents in the future.

Today I again contacted the German Federal Minister, Mrs. AIGNER, as I am concerned by the recent news from last weekend, that a feed manufacturer did not provide a full list of farms which have received potentially contaminated feed and provided incorrect information as regards the use of contaminated feed fat in compound feed, resulting in an additional blocking of several hundreds of farms. This concerns a very serious infringement of EU food safety provisions.

Let me say it clearly: the German authorities are fully engaged in dealing with this contamination and doing their best to deal with it urgently and decisively. I am informed that they are making available additional capacity for testing so that this could be finished in the shortest possible time. However, it is important that the wider implications for the approach towards the safety of animal feed at the EU level are also urgently addressed. For this reason a team from the Food and Veterinary Office will visit Germany next week to assist the German authorities and to inform our overall knowledge and understanding of how this contamination happened and how it can be best avoided in the future. The German authorities are informed and agreed to it and I know we can count on the full cooperation of our German colleagues.

As additional information to you, Honourable Members of Parliament, we will discuss this incident also during the Agriculture Council, which will take place in Brussels next Monday, 24 January.

As I have already mentioned we are reflecting on measures, including legislative ones!

This incident has highlighted the necessity to ensure the effectiveness of national control systems which underpin the confidence of all EU Member states and third countries in our Food and Feed safety measures.

In order to address these issues,

I am confident that these measures, when endorsed and adopted, will bring the necessary improvements to our already solid Food and Feed Safety system.

Thank you for your attention.

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