Food Law News - UK - 1999

2 June 1999: CONTAMINANTS - Contamination Problem in Poultry and Eggs from Belgium - JFSSG Issues Advice

MAFF News Release (192/99), 2 June 1999

Contamination Problem in Poultry and Eggs from Belgium - JFSSG Issues Advice

JFSSG today issued a Food Hazard Warning to ask local authorities to check with relevant food businesses that they are not using poultry or egg products which originate from holdings which have been put under restriction by the Belgian authorities and which may be contaminated with dioxins.

The European Community has now agreed a series of protective measures which require Belgium to ensure that no further products from the affected farms are distributed within the Community or to third countries. Other Member States are required to take similar precautions in their own countries.

Consumers are advised that the consumption of the contaminated poultry, eggs and related products would not be expected to cause harmful effects, due to the relatively short period of exposure. Adverse effects in humans usually occur only after prolonged exposure to high levels of dioxins. For this reason, it is unlikely that any foods already in the home will be a cause for concern; we are continuing our investigations of this problem.

High levels of dioxins have been found in poultry and eggs from 416 farms in Belgium. Very limited data are available at the moment, but reported levels are about 100 times higher than those found in previous surveys of the UK diet. The cause of the contamination is thought to be contaminated feedingstuffs.

MAFF/DH JFSSG are advising food businesses to:
investigate whether any poultry, poultry products (e.g. pâté), egg or egg products they use in food manufacture, or may currently have on sale, originated from Belgium and either obtain confirmation from their suppliers that the products did not originate from any of the 416 affected farms in Belgium or be able to demonstrate through the results of analysis that the products are not contaminated with dioxins.

Dioxins and furans are a group of closely related chemicals produced during most combustion processes and as unwanted by-products of some industrial chemical processes. Dioxins and furans are analysed together in food samples, and are generally referred to generically as 'dioxins'.

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