|AMSTERDAM - The Dutch agriculture ministry this week temporarily shut 140 cattle, pig, sheep and goat farms after cancer-causing dioxin was discovered in milk produced by two of them, the ministry said.|
All the farms were feeding animals with a special potato product that the ministry said had been contaminated with dioxin and was produced by Canadian company McCain.
The company through a spokesman said it had found dioxin in a feed, blocked sales of the affected product and launched an investigation.
"The closure is a prevention measure because we want to investigate whether there is dioxin contamination in the other farms and a spread into the food chain," a spokeswoman for the ministry said.
"We know for sure that the potato feed coming from McCain has been contaminated with dioxin and the reason was a clay that they used to sort out potatoes," she said.
A spokesman for the Dutch unit of French fries producer McCain confirmed that his company found dioxin in a byproduct used as cattle feed and produced by its Dutch factories.
"We were visited by food authorities last week and since then we immediately blocked all sales of the product," the spokesman for McCain Food Holland said.
"We have launched a broader investigation and we have a reason to believe that the dioxin contamination was caused by a clay. But none of the French fries are infected," he said.
McCain Holland sells its cattle feed products through various trading companies, the spokesman said, adding he did not have information whether contaminated potato feed had been exported outside the Netherlands.
The ministry spokeswoman said a result from the livestock farms investigation could be expected next week.
The Belgian food safety agency said eight Belgian farms had been closed as a precaution after the Dutch dioxin scare. The eight were mostly pig farms that had received special potato products from the Netherlands to feed animals.
Contaminated feed was at the root of recent European food scares such as the discovery of an illegal hormone in Dutch pigs in 2002 and the 1999 Belgian scandal of dioxin in chickens.
Dioxins are one of a number of toxic chemicals that originate in pesticides or industrial processes, leach into rivers and lakes and build up in the flesh of fish and animals. (With additional reporting by Bart Crols in Brussels)
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