UPDATE - EU to look into EU-wide nitrofen controls
BRUSSELS - European Union food safety experts will examine setting maximum permitted EU-wide levels in animal feed and food for the banned pesticide nitrofen following the health scare in Germany, EU officials said last week.
The EU\'s food safety panel met for the second time to discuss the discovery in Germany of animal feed tainted with the potential carcinogen that has led to a country-wide search for contaminated products.
EU officials said the panel took no further action last week, but would meet again next Tuesday to discuss a nitrofen limit. They said this did not mean lower amounts would be permitted but it would be set at the lowest detectable level.
\"This will oblige member states to conduct routine checks for nitrofen,\" one official said.
The panel discussed a report from Germany on the latest situation in which German officials said they could not rule out finding more cases of nitrofen contamination.
German investigators last week launched a massive new search to track down meat and eggs from hundreds of farms which have received non-organic animal feed tainted with the herbicide.
About 400 cattle, pig and poultry farms were in quarantine for checks after they received feed produced using tainted wheat.
Previously, investigations had focused on feed sent to poultry farmers that use organic production methods.
The source of the contaminated feed is a grain store in Malchin in the east of the country, which in the days of communist East Germany was used to hold pesticides and weedkiller, residues of which had tainted wheat stored there.
All the 260 known pesticide and weedkiller stores in former East Germany are being checked for nitrofen residues.
German Agriculture Minister Renate Kuenast said last week the government will seek to assist farmers facing a serious financial squeeze from having their farms quarantined.
But she stressed consumer protection comes first and farms will stay sealed off despite financial problems farmers face.
The government will ask insurance companies to make initial payouts to farmers and clear up details later. It will also seek to set up a help fund and state aid is also being investigated, she said.
Kuenast said on German television she will meet representatives of feed producers next week to ask that feed companies pick up contaminated feed from farms and replace it for free.
Testing laboratories throughout Germany have been asked to help examine feed as fast as possible but she said around 400 farms remain in quarantine last week.
German feed companies will cooperate with the minister\'s request to replace feed, Henning Ehlers, spokesman for the association of German cooperatives DRV, told Reuters.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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