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Ongoing dioxin scandal in Germany

[1] The high levels of dioxins that have shown up in small amounts of German produce have been traced to a single fats manufacturer, Harles and Jentzsch. Another feed producer based in Damme/Germany has now been traced more than 15 days the begin of investigations. The company had tried to conceal his connections with Harles Jentzsch. Now, about 900 farms have to be closed and wait for dioxin tests.

Dioxin source

Hans Schenkel, a professor of agricultural chemistry of the University of Stuttgart, said the pattern of dioxins in the fat were similar to dioxins found in kaolin which might be involved in the latest food poisoning. Kaolin can be used up to 3% in animal feed to improve the flow during pumping when moving the animal feed from one store to another and caused a dioxin scandal in 1999. Kaolin is also used to sort out spoiled potatoes and potatoes unsuitable for French fries. The speculations of professor Schenkel were dissipated by investigations of the officials of Münster/Germany.

The chemical and veterinary investigations office of Münster came to the conclusion that residues of the Biodiesel oil production were responsible for the ongoing dioxin contamination of European food chain. The office found that the pattern of the dioxins found in fat, feed and eggs was similar to samples of the Biodiesel refining byproducts.

Some dioxin food scandals

Organic eggs in Germany tainted with dioxin-like PCB [3]

Shortly before the eastern feast, in early April 2012, news were spread that organic eggs are tainted by dioxin. The chicken farm in North Rhine-Westphalia/Germanywith 25.000 laying hens was closed by veterinary authorities. The dioxin-like Polychlorinated Biphenylen (PCB) content was found to be three to six times of the permitted levels.

The source of the contamination is unknown. Animal feed was to be free of dioxin. This case revives the scandal of dioxin in German eggs in 2011 when highly contaminated feed had been sold to hen and pig farms. Eggs, poultry meat and pork had to be discarded. It seems that all safety measures are not sufficient to avoid dioxi and dioxin-like tainted food. The health-conscious consumer which buys organic food is mislead by the tainted eggs sold by supermarkets.

The Ministry says there is no immediate health risk if tainted eggs are consumed, however, eaten over long time health problems cannot be ruled out, such as disorders of the immune system, skin diseases, airways and thyroid gland, digestive tract disfunction.

German dioxin scandal December 2010 discredits certification and the HACCP safety concept of the food industry

German food safety is discredited by the failure of the HACCP concept and failure of certification. Thilo Bode from Foodwatch accuses the German government to have no interests to impose further burdens on feed mills in order to avoid impairments on the export of German meat products. [4]

Dioxin-like PCB poison in German eggs rises question about safety of eggs and chicken meat

The dioxin scandal in European eggs in early 2011 is being followed by new dioxin-like PCB tainted eggs found in Germany. The source of the 2011 poison was tracked back to fatty acids of the production of bioDiesel which were illegally added to the feed of hens. However, no source is known which might have caused the 2012 PCBs which poisoned organic eggs of North Rhine-Westphalia/Germany and conventional free range farms in Lower Saxony/Germany. PCBs levels in eggs were found to be six times the permitted limit. For the time being all samples of feed, water and local soil were found not to be the source of the contamination. Dioxins and PCBs are of industrial origin and may be found in eggs and meat oll over the world.

Dioxin in free-range eggs [5]

Lin, Hsu and Liao 2012 report that the levels of dl-PCBs in the free-range samples were 5.4 times higher than those in caged eggs. The dl-PCB levels in the free-range eggs were highly correlated with elevated levels of 17 polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and dibenzofurans, indicating a coexposure scenario in free-range hens. As the consumption of free-range eggs is becoming more popular worldwide, risk of cancer caused by dioxins and PCBs will increase.

The bioavailability of PCBs in contaminated soil in vicinity of a former fire involving treated wood was assessed by Fournier et al. 2012. The sandy soil contained 709µg indicator PCBskg(-1) dry matter. The concentration of indicator PCBs in yolk in abdominal fat and liver linearly increased with the amount of indicator PCB ingested, confirming the bioavailability of these compounds. [6]

Combustion of fossil fuels and biofuels increase environmental poisoning, being spread as dust and dioxin particulates. Bio fuels of first, second and third generation are based on carbon combustion producing dioxins and PCBs. The energy strategy for the next century should therefore be based on solar and wind energy which is carbon combustion free.

Schröter- Kermani et al. 2005 report that seabirds are top predators which accumulate persistent chemicals, such as PCDDs, PCDFs, and dioxin-like PCBs including several POPs like DDT, HCH, and HCB which can be found in high concentrations in their eggs. In the framework of the German Environmental Specimen Bank eggs of herring gulls are collected since 1988 from two North Sea islands and since 1993 from one Baltic Sea island, to monitore the industrials and agrochemicals environmental contamination. [7]

Influence of dioxin in soil and their accumulation in egg yolk of organic eggs [8]

De Vries, Kwakkelz and Kijlstra 2006 reviewed studies related to dioxin in organic eggs in the Netherlands, Germany and other EU countries. The authors found that eggs are responsible for about 4 percent of the intake of dioxin in humans, organic eggs contain more dioxin than conventional eggs, and the organic eggs of a significant number of farms exceed the EU standards. The authors analysed the influence of dioxin in soil and their accumulation in egg yolk. Aside of feed as source of dioxin in eggs, the authors stress the importance of ingestion of worms, insects, grass, herbs and soil by hens. Hens on conventional and free-range farms spend less time in the outdoor run, compared with hens of organic farms.

Flock Size and measures to reduce dioxin in eggs [8]

De Vries and colleagues stress also that mall flocks were found to be outside most of the time whereas large flocks tend to remain inside. This explains why almost none of the larger layinghen farms (more than 1500 laying hens) in the Netherlands have problems maintaining their egg dioxin level below the EU standard of 3 pg TEQ. Shortening the time hens spend ranging in the outdoor run, reduce the size of the outdoor run and covering the soil in the outdoor run are being proposed to reduce dioxin intake. Improving the general health status may prevent the hens from ingesting soil. The maximum residue limit for dioxins in chicken eggs is set at 3 picograms WHO-PCDD/F-TEQ/g fat. [9]

Dioxin in German eggs, the burden of past environmental delicts [10]

Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and other parts of Germany had been closed in April 2012 by German food authorities because of elevated PCBs and Dioxin contamination. Non-dioxin-like PCBs contamination in eggs of a organic farm at the district of Oldenburg/Germany were recently found in May. Some ot these eggs were sold at different places and were already consumed.

Food authorities say there is no acute health risk for those who have eaten such eggs, however. PCBs are known to cause health impairments if contaminated foods are eaten over a long period.

In the district of Duisburg dioxin was found, while non-dioxin-like PCBs were found in eggs of other farms. Authorities believe that there is no common source like feed or water, tests in Lower Saxony were all negative. However, soil samples of a hen free run of the conventional part of the hen farm were found to have elevated contamination of PCB. This, however does not explain why organic eggs were contaminated while the soil of the organic part of the farm was negative tested.

Brominated flame retardant in eggs of free-range hens [11]

According to Fournier et al 2012, high concentrations of hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD), a brominated flame retardant, are sometimes recorded in eggs of free-range hens. The source of the contamination is the ingestion of soil. The gama-HBCD isomer is the most prevalent in soil. It is rapidly biotransformed and eliminated, and partly isomerized into the more persistent alpha-HBCD. The carry-over rate of ingested gama-HBCD to egg yolk is 1.2% and its half-life is 2.9 days in egg yolk, 13 days in abdominal fat, and 0,41 days in liver.

Three main stereoisomers, alpha, beta, and gamma, comprise roughly 10, 10, and 80% of the mixture, respectively. The major stereoisomer found in wildlife and human tissues including breast milk and blood of humans is the alfa-HBCD isomer, despite its low percentage of the fire retardant mixtures, suggesting the bioaccumulation of this isomer. [12]

European definition of egg types

The EU- Directive 1999/74 defines and specifies the standards for the protection of laying hens, defining the barn egg, the free range egg and the organic egg. [13]

All newly built or rebuilt systems of production or brought into use for the first time must be equipped in such a way that all laying hens have: EU regulations require commercially sold eggs to be stamped with an indication of the method of rearing and the country of origin. 0 is a "Bio" egg, 1 a free range egg, 2 a barn egg, and 3 a cage egg (battery eggs). The European Union has banned battery cages as of 2012.

Barn egg production: 250 cm² of littered area per hen. The littered area has to be a minimum of one third of the floor surface area. 9 hens/m² usable area, of at least 30 cm width, floor slope must not exceed 14% or 8° and headroom must be at least 45 cm. The levels must be so arranged as to prevent droppings falling on the levels below. 120 hens/m² group laying nest or 7 hens/single nest. 15 cm perch/hen- perches must not be installed above the littered area, the horizontal distance between the perches has to be at least 30 cm, horizontal distance between perch and wall at least 20 cm. 10 cm of linear feeders/hen. 10 hens/drinking nipple. Free range production: Production must additionally comply with the following standards: The pop holes have to be at least 35 cm high and 40 cm wide; 200 cm of total opening width for every 1000 hens. Shelter in the free-range area. Organic production: Additional standards for the production, processing and marketing of organic eggs are established in the EU-Eco-regulation [14]. In 1999 it was supplemented by regulation (EC) Nr 1804/1999 [15], which regulates the raising, labelling and inspection of the most relevant animal species (i.e. cattle, sheep, goats, horses and poultry).

The German way to transform bad foods to good foods

[16] The chairman of the veterinarians of the German Association of Animal Welfare, Prof. Thomas Blaha, says that eggs and meat with high levels of dioxin do not need to be discarded. They may be made fit for human consumption mixing it with eggs or meat with low dioxin levels. So high dioxin levels come down to the permissible range of contamination. This is absolutely against Good Manufacturing Practice and HACCP basic principles and contravenes ethics of clean and sound foods from farm to fork. Professor Blaha is director for epidemiology of the Veterinary University of Hannover and reflects the careless way German veterinary and food authorities handle safety issues. This supports the accusations of Foodwatch against the German government and the German food safety certification systems.

Certification system

[16] DEKRA, a food certification system, recently certified the Harles und Jentzsch company which was responsible for selling industrial fats and feed with high dioxin levels. The certifier examining the flow chart of the production should have noted the lacking of a Control Point (CP) of raw ware and its safety. A series of food scandals, primarily linked to the origin of raw ware point to the serious failure of German certification systems.

Where dioxin goes

[17] [18] German dioxin eggs were used for the production of liquid egg yolk for bakery products. In UK. Tesco recalled its cakes produced with German egg yolk.

EU Commissioner says that the German eggs were sold to the Netherlands for the production of egg yolk which went to mayonnaise and cake production. [19]

Mayonnaise and sauces have a high content of egg yolk and are therefore products which should be avoided by the consumer. Due to a shelf life of 6 month or more, these products will remain hazardous for a long period.

According to a spokesman for Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner there are indications of high level of illegal activity. European poultry, eggs and pork industry is to be blamed for closing eyes on safety issues. The consumer and the export partners cannot trust any more on German and European food, unless serious failures of the safety system are removed.

Playing down the 2010 dioxin scandals

More laws will be of no help at all Harles and Jentzsch began selling the dioxin-tainted fat in March, and continued the shipping despite being aware of high dioxin analysis results of tests. The contamination in Germany was discovered in December 2010 by local government inspectors randomly testing food.

Poison to food using the mixing phenomenon

[20] According to the European Commission health spokesman, Frederic Vincent, some eggs had been found to contain up to five times the legal European Union limit for dioxin, which can cause cancer, but those levels would not pose a risk to human health, other tests found eggs with 77 times the legal limit for dioxin.

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) was not concerned with the consumer safety, because German dioxin-eggs had been mixed with noncontaminated eggs to make pasteurized liquid egg in the Netherlands and sold in the UK. The Mixing brought the poison in the liquid egg down to levels allowed by law. [21]

Such statements of the UK FSA, together with German veterinary official Prof. Thomas Blaha undermine the premise that food products should be made of suitable raw materials and should not be made of diluted poisons, such as happened in 1999 where discarded motor oil was use as feed in Belgium, or sewage sludge in French animal feed. Dioxin and other poisons accumulate in human body throughout decades. Mixing foods high in aflatoxins is also considered "legal" in nuts and cereals to get toxins down to limits.

Every effort to keep such poisons out of food should be of top priority in any Good Manufacturing Practice system. Such mixing may be considered "legal" but does not correlate with the perceptions of the consumer.

More laws and restrictions do not remedy carelessness of safety systems

These criminal activities cannot be avoided with more laws and restrictions. It is a matter of integrity of the directors of food businesses which deliberately use loopholes to introduce poisonous material not intended for food production. The directors of the whole European food production chain should be blamed for maintaining a low surveillance of their suppliers and the failure of their own safety GPM and HACCP system related to this matter. A mayonnaise producer, as an example, must control his supplier of liquid egg yolk to see if he controls eggs used for his production. With such a conscious self-monitoring system dioxin eggs should have been detected earlier than 9 month.

Dioxin, the endless story

Dioxin is since long time known as one of the strongest poisons which man is able to produce. It causes cancer of liver and lung, interferes in the immune system resulting in a predisposition to infectious diseases and embrional misgrowth.

Dioxins comprise polychlorinated dibenzo-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs). Environmentally persistent dioxins and dioxin-like compounds include 29 congeners of dioxins, furans and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) with similar toxic effects, their quantification commonly expressed as toxic equivalent units according to their varying potency. While the amount of those compounds in the environment has declined since the late 1970s, there is a continued concern because of their accumulation in the food chain, particularly in animal fat. In 2002 the European Commission prescribed a list of actions to further reduce the presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs and later introduced action and maximum levels [22]

At the beginning of the 20th century the production of chlorine splitting sodium chloride by Dow Chemical Midland,USA free chlorine could be used for many new compounds like pesticides, plastics such as PVC,chlorine bleaching of paper and many other sources. Dioxins are also built as unwanted side reactions during the production of chlorinated products.

When these new compounds are burned as waste, chlorine atoms combine with carbon resulting dioxins. Dioxin is also originated during combustion, mainly by heat below 780° It is therefore found in the atmosphere and in the fallout in rain. A main source of dioxin is used discarded motor oil and in some geological formations like kaolinite. In the press dioxin was cited in relation to the accident at the chemical plant of Hoffmann-LaRoche in Seveso, Italy. Due to an explosion a great amount of 2,3,7,8 TCDD dioxin was spread over the city of Seveso in 1976. Limits for dioxin expressed as tolerable daily intake are given in picogram 1 pg=10-12g : Please note that sometimes dioxin values are expressed in nanograms.
One nanogram=10-9g.

Today emission of smoke stacks has been reduced from 400g i-TE/year in 1988 down to 2g i-TE/year.According to German regulations emission of smoke stacks over 5000 m3/h the emission should be reduced to 0,1 ng i-TE/ m3.

Sludge from industrial wastewater should not exceed 100 ng i-TE/kg of dry matter according to German regulation.
Soil of playground for children should not exceed 100 ng i-TE/kg of dry matter.
Soil of residential neighborhood should be kept under 1000 ng i-TE of dry matter according to the List of Berlin 1996.

The role of Dioxins in cancer

People who have been exposed to high levels of dioxin have developed chloracne, a skin disease marked by severe acne-like pimples. Studies have also shown that chemical workers who are exposed to high levels of dioxins have an increased risk of cancer. Other studies of highly exposed populations show that dioxins can cause reproductive and developmental problems, and an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. More research is needed to determine the long-term effects of low-level dioxin exposures on cancer risk, immune function, and reproduction and development.

Dioxins produce cancer acting through the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) gene in conjunction with the receptor's binding partner, aryl hydrocarbon receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT). This gene produces a protein which interrupts the signal transmission by the AhR by competing with the ARNT for binding to the arylhydrocarbon receptor.
TCDD (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) activates the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) modifying its gene expression and toxicity. The AHR repressor (AHRR) inhibits AHR signaling through a mechanism described by Evans and colleagues 2008. The authors describe a mechanism of AHRR action involving "transrepression" of AHR signaling through protein-protein interactions. [23]

The aryl hydrocarbon receptor repressor (AHRR) contains tumor suppressor genes. Zudaire and colleagues 2008 report that in case of cancers of colon, breast, lung, stomach, cervix, and ovary downregulation of The AHRR mRNA is downregulated with DNA hypermethylation as the regulatory mechanism of AHRR gene silencing. [24]

The AHR regulates responses to environmental chemicals. Hahn and colleagues 2009 describe how AHR may repress AHRR transcription, resulting in unbridled AHR activity, and the way how the AHRR may exert AHR-independent effects.and AHR-regulated malignancy. [25]

Immune suppression induced by TCDD

[26] According to Nancy and colleagues 2007, the aryl hydrocarbon (Ah) receptor responds to environmental stress such as oxygen partial pressure, light intensity, and pollutants such as tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD) which is the most potent Ah receptor suppressor. TCDD has immunosuppressive effects. Activation of the Ah receptor by TCDD leads to profound immune suppression involved in the generation of regulatory T cells.

Chemical structure of dioxins

There are about 210 dioxins and related compounds called furanes. They are classified in two classes of chemical compounds: The class of the polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and the class of the dibenzofuranes. The difference between dioxins and furanes is that some compounds have an oxigen bridge, others don't. Both classes of compounds are usually called dioxins.

The most poisoning dioxin is 2,3,7,8-TCDD (tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin)(described by Sandemann et all. in 1957) therefore equivalents are calculated in relation to this compound as only 17 of the 210 dioxins and furanes have a chlorine atom at the position 2,3,7 and 8 being therefore strongly toxic and are expressed as Toxicity Equivalence (TE)
TCDD is classified as carcinogenic class I which is the highest step in the classification of the IARC (International Agency of Research of Cancer).
1 ng TE means that there is a mixture of PCDD and PCDF present which corresponds to 1 nanogram of 2,3,7,8 TCDD.

Dioxins accumulate in liver an fat tissue and it takes about 10 years for the body to reduce half of the amount of once stored dioxins.
Other dioxins furanes and related compounds presenting toxicity:
PCDDs (Polychlorinated dibenzodioxin)
PCDFs (Polychlorinated dibenzofurans)
PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls)

Dioxins are very difficult to be analysed. PCB Polychlorated biphenil are most all the time present together with dioxins. PCBs are much more easy and is does not take so much time to analise as dioxins. Therefore PCB control with GC/MSD or HRGC/HRMS is used as indicator for dioxins. In milk a contamination of 100 ng/g of PCB in fat is an indicator of high dioxin values. In egg yolk a maximum of 60 ng/g in fat stands for tolerable values of Dioxins The most toxic compound is 2,3,7,8-tetrachloro-dibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). It is used as a reference of the toxicity of other dioxins. The liver microsomal P4501A1 enzyme oxygenates dioxins. The enzyme is encoded by the CYP1A1 gene. Expression of CYP1A1 is increased by the cytosolic aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) together with hydrocarbon nuclear translocator (ARNT) and xenobiotic responsive element (XRE) Foetuses and infants are most sensitive to dioxins. [27]

Dioxins activate the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), which is linked to tissue-specific toxicity phenotypes. Dioxins are involved in developmental or tissue regeneration processes, impaired prostate development and hydronephrosis in mouse, reduced midbrain blood flow and malformation in zebrafish embryos and adult zebrafish, and signaling by receptors for inflammatory cytokines have been implicated in tissue-specific endpoints of dioxin toxicity. [28]

Burns and colleagues 2010 found that blood serum levels of dioxins and PCBs were inversely associated with height z scores and height velocity (cm growth/year). The authors concluded that dioxins and PCBs are associated with reduced growth during the peripubertal period and compromise adult body mass, stature, and health. [29]

Dioxins, heavy metals and environmental contaminants in foodstuffs report of German food authorities

[30] The research project "Foodborne exposure to environmental contaminants" (LExUKon) of the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) have calculated the amounts of cadmium, lead, mercury, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which consumers usually absorb with foods. According to the study, the main sources for cadmium intake are vegetables and cereals. Lead is primarily absorbed by consumers via beverages and cereals. Methylmercury is mainly contained in fish, whereas dairy products and meat are determining for dioxins and PCBs.

The intake of environmental contaminants through foodstuffs was determined for the general population, taking into account different consumption habits as well as individual lifestyles. It turned out, for instance, that consumers eat more fish as they grow older and hence absorb, amongst other things, more methylmercury than younger people.


Eating more vegetables and cereal increases the intake of cadmium which is short over 1,5 microg/kg bodyweight/week, which corresponds to 58% of the Tolerable Weekly Intake (TWI) of 2,5 microg/kg bodyweight. People with high vegetable and cereals eating habits have an intake of 2,35 microg cadmium /kg bodyweight, which is near the upper rage of the TWI set by the European Food Safety Authority.

Lead intake and margin of exposure (MoE)

Beverages and vegetables are responsible for high intake of lead, which is calculated to be 3,7 microg/kg bodyweight for the average consumer, and 5,1 microg/kg bodyweight/week for people with high consume of this food group, corresponding to 1,2 and 0,9 MoE, respectively, for kidney toxicity, and 2,8 and 2,1 MOE respectively for systolic blood pressure.


Intake of methylmercury is related to fish and milk products. The intake of mercury and methylmercury is calculated to be 0,49 microg/kg bodyweight for the average consumer, and 0,9 microg/kg bodyweight/week for people with high consume of this food group, which is 21% and 37%, respectively, of the limit value of 2,4 microg/kg bodyweight set by JECFA.

Dioxins and PCBs in dairy and meat

Dairy products and meat are responsible for the exposition to PCDD/F and dioxi-like PCB (dl-PCB). Dioxin and dl-PCB intake is calculated to be 12,7-16,9 picog/kg bodyweigh/weekt for the average consumer, which is 90-121% of the limit value of 14 picog/kg bodyweight set by SCF. Not dioxin-like PCB (ndl-PCB) exposition is 15-21,7 nanog/kg bodyweight of average consumer. This is 75-109% of the TDI of 20 nanog/kg bodyweight set by the WHO.

Conclusions of the report

Specific population groups and high consume of special food groups reach, or exceed intake of toxicological limits. The report stresses that dietary supplements may increase the calculated intake of cadmium, lead,mercury dioxins and PCB.

Waste incinerators are source of dioxins in agricultural soils

[31] Deng and colleagues 2010 found polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDD/F) in agricultural soils near two municipal solid waste incinerators in Shanghai ranging from 71.32 to 3,881.44 pg g(-1), whereas the highest concentrations were found approximately 1,000 m from the incinerators. The authors stress that the PCDD/F pollutions in soil result from emissions of the municipal solid waste incinerators.

Reduction of dioxins in fish oils

[32] Ortiz and colleagues 2010 developed a silicon-based and carbon-based solid adsorbent system to reduce dioxins from fish oils. The authors report a reduction of dioxins ranging from 99% to 10% without affecting nutritional properties.

Dioxins in German eggs in 2010: Is the poultry feed industry careless or is it criminal?

[33] Eggs and poultry meat of German farms were found contaminated with dioxin in late December 2010. Veterinary authorities suspect that technical oil such as discarded engine lubricating oil was included in poultry feed sold by a company in Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany with border to Denmark.

Around 1000 farms raising egg-laying chicken, pigs and turkey were closed after double the permitted levels of dioxin in eggs and chicken were found in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany). More than 8,000 laying hens had to be culled. German animal feed manufacturer Harles & Jentzsch bought the dioxin contaminated oil from a Dutch supplier. The oil was delivered by Petrotech AG, a plant in Emden (Germany) which produces bio-Diesel from palm oil, soy oil, rape oil and used deep-frying fats.

The incident of Ukrainian organic maize used in organic poultry feed in April-May highly contaminated with dioxins is now topped by technical oil used as feed ingredient in Germany. This demonstrates that European animal feed industry fails to follow basic safety rules. Veterinary authorities do not cope with their obligations to supervise the "farm to fork" chain. [34]

The Belgian scandal of dioxin

In June 1999 Europe was confronted by the news of the scandal of dioxin in Belgian animal feed. Eggs, meat of hen, pigs and beef were not safe. Belgian animal feed had been enriched with old used engine oil with high level of dioxin.

As Belgic exported the contaminated meat as animal feed all over Europe was to be considered as bearing PCBs and dioxins.

Later on Swiss animal feed was also found to be contaminated by dioxins. This was caused by certain charges containing kaolinite from Germany. Kaolinite is part of earth which is used in the production on porcelain. As 3% in animal feed it is used to improve the flow during pumping when moving the animal feed from one store to another. German kaolin with high level of dioxin had also been added to animal feed in Austria and Germany. In June 1999 animal feedings with added kaolinite were found to have 1,5 to 30 pg i-TE/g resulting in a contamination of German turkeys of 30,6 pg i-TE/g fat. According to German regulation from 9.6.99 a maximum of Dioxin equivalents should be observed in following foods:
Eggs maximum of 4 pg i-TE/g fat
Poultry maximum of 5 pg i-TE/g fat
Milk maximum of 3 pg i-TE/g fat
Beef maximum of 6 pg i-TE/g fat
Pork maximum of 2 pg i-TE/g fat

French animal feed now found to carry dioxins tells that there is still very much wrong. Everything is being used to feed animals. As calcium is needed to feed cows, calcium oxide from washing industrial smoke stack combustion gases had been added to citric pellets from Brazil which were fed to German cows. Great amount of milk had to be discarded because of high level of dioxin.

Even sewage sludge resulting from industrial waste water treatment is being added to animal feed, often without separation between the waste water and the normal sewage system.
In 1991 the use of sewage sludge from industrial waste water for animal feed was forbidden by the EU but this has not always been followed. In 1998/1999 French knackeries and gelatine factories as well as Dutch companies had sewage sludge from industrial waste water mixed with animal feed. Pigs and chicken fed with it were also sold in Germany.
Sewage sludge concentrates heavy metals, dioxin, antibiotics and resistant bacteria. [35]
Sewage sludge is still being used in France (November 1999) as ingredient to animal feed disregarding EU regulation of 1991. This confirms the deep distrust of the consumer confidence on public institutions.

High dioxin levels in German organic eggs, failure of incoming controls?

[36] Dioxins increase the risk of cancer. Levels above the EU standard of 3 pg TEQ were found in May 2010 in German organic eggs by the Association for controlled alternative husbandary, which maintains the label: "Controlled by KAT". The whole production chain did not comply with the HACCP and ISO 9000 principles, questioning organic eggs and their seals of approval.

Investigations found that the organic feed from the Dutch Harreveld facility of ForFarmers were the source of the dioxin. Organic corn for the production of the feed imported from the Ukraine could be traced as the primary source of the contamination. Incoming controls have failed. It is a sign of failure of the quality system when toxic food is found at the end of the chain and hazzards are not identified with incoming controls of the Ukrainian corn. Organic eggs are continuously on the headlines of food scandals. [37]

Belgian dioxin crisis related to chicken feed in 1999

[38] In 1999, Belgium had a dioxin crisis caused by dioxin-contaminated feed being fed to livestock. The source of the contamination was a Belgian at-rendering company, where transformer oil with high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins was used to manufacture animal foods sale of Belgian poultry and eggs and all food items containing more than 2% egg product

Dioxin levels are higher in eggs of free-ranging chickens than chickens kept inside

DeVriesDioxininEggs2006 De Vries and colleagues 2006 found that dioxin levels are higher in eggs from free-ranging chickens than in eggs from chickens kept inside. Free-ranging chickens ingest soil and eat insects and worms, all of which contain environmental dioxins. Flock size influences the behaviour of the animals. Small flocks are outside most of the time whereas large flocks tend to remain inside. The uptake of dioxin-contaminated soil or insects taken up varies accordingly. The authors say that large Dutch farms with more than 1500 laying hen have egg dioxin levels below the EU standard of 3 pg TEQ, while organic farms with small flocks present unacceptably high egg dioxin levels because the animals spend most of the time outside.

In Lower Saxony state, 28% of all free-range eggs produced in the last two years were above European Union limits for dioxin levels, because hens were allowed to roam on land contaminated with the chemicals. [39]

EFSA report on dioxin levels in food and feed, July 2010

[22] Dioxin and furan congeners comprised between 30% and 74% of the total concentrations depending on food or feed group, while mono-ortho PCBs comprised between 15% and 45% of the dioxin-like PCBs. The highest mean levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in food expressed on fat basis were observed for "liver and products thereof from terrestrial animals" and on whole weight basis for "fish liver and products thereof". In feed the highest levels were found in "fish oil". An overall 8% of the samples exceeded different maximum levels and a further 4% exceeded some action levels.

European animal feed directive

Forbidden Industrial waste water sludge is forbidden as animal feed. All components of sewage remain are not allowed to be added to animal feed even if they were submitted to any technological procedure.

Exception Allowed is process Water which come out of closed circuits and which does not contain substances which are not allowed for animal feed. In 1999 faeces were found in French animal feed with added sewage. Recycled oils and fats are allowed as animal feed by way of exception under the control of an HACCP system.

Unfortunately many industrial waste water sludges are being declared as process water evading the European directive.

Unilever Chairman pleas for an EURO- FDA

To conter the loss of the consumers confidence and to restore the ability of the public veterinary and food control to do their job Antony Burgmanns Chairman of Unilever NV, Rotterdam says ( 14.11.99) that the creation of an European Control System like the US FDA will be necessary[40].

Dioxin in foods

Low levels of dioxin from environment are present in vegetables and all other kind of foods. The amount of environmental dioxin is not relevant, excluding the region of Seveso and some parts of Serbian. Eggs, milk, beef and fish all over Europe can have high amount of dioxin when animal feed with dioxin had been fed.

As dioxin accumulates in fatty tissue it is possible to reduce the intake of dioxin by eating less greasy fatty food. Therefore veterinary officials claim analytical checks on dioxin and PCBs when the food bears more than 2% of fat on exports from Belgium.

Despite the criminal procedures on the scandal of dioxin contaminated animal feed from Belgium the WHO reports decreasing levels of dioxins in worldwide human blood plasma. This is told to be a result of efforts to reduce dioxin in environment. So mother's milk in Germany being reported in 1985 as average of 29,6 ng i-TE/kg fat has decreased to an average of 15,9 ng i-TE/kg fat in 1994.

BSE problems in Great Britain, dioxin in Belgian foods caused gigantic financial losses to the involved industry and commerce. It disregarding laws and good manufacturing practice does not bring wealth. It soon or later ends in scandals. It should be a lesson to all who want to earn easy money without regarding safety and public health. Industry,great retailers and last but not least the consumer should help to keep food safe paying appropriate prices to their suppliers avoiding price battles which end on outlaw practices.
The WHO Consultation of May 25-29, in Geneva, Switzerland regarding the health risk of Dioxins[41] shows that the most important amount of dioxins intake resulting from food (90% of total human exposure to dioxins) has been reduced about half of the former values due to increased emission reducing activities. Food born dioxins are found mainly in animal fat. That is why vegetarian food becomes more attractive. But remember: Supplementation of vegetarian diets with B12 vitamin from drugstore is important to avoid undersupply.

According to the consultation of WHO the contamination of food is primarily caused by deposition of emissions from various sources (like waste incineration and production of chemicals) on farmland and waterbodies followed by bioaccumulation up terrestrial and aquatic food chains. Other sources may include contaminated feed for cattle, chicken and farmed fish so what has happened lately with Belgian animal feed, improper application of sewage sludge, flooding of pastures, waste effluents and certain food technologies.

Tolerable daily intake (TDI)

The WHO in December 1990 in the Netherlands established a tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 10 pg/kg by weight for TCDD.

The consultation concerning health risk of dioxins in May 1998, Geneva re-evaluated the TDI as an upper range of the TDI of 4 pg TEQ/kg by weight should be considered a maximal tolerable intake on a provisional basis and that the ultimate goal is to reduce human intake levels below 1 pg TEQ/kg bw/day. In Germany the human exposure to TCDD is supposed to be only 45% of the limit of 1 pg TEQ/kg bw/day.
The consultation however recommended that every effort should be made to limit environmental releases of dioxin and related compounds to the extent feasible in order to reduce their presence in the food chains, thereby resulting in continued reduction in human body burdens. Efforts to reduce the exposure of more highly exposed sub-populations should be undertaken. These efforts bear their price and this should be honored by commerce and by the consumer. Someone has to pay for it. So honest prices for good honest raw materials to reduce risk in food.

Toxic Equivalents (TEQ) and Toxicity equivalency factors (TEF)

The European Centre for Environment and Health of the World Health Organization (WHO-ECEH) and the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) the toxic equivalency (TEQ) concept. To arrive at a TDI expressed as TEQ, a composite uncertainty factor of 10 was recommended. By applying this uncertainty factor a TDI range of 1-4 pg TEQs/kg body weight was established. [42]

The presence of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs is expressed as toxic equivalents (TEQ) after multiplication of congener-specific concentration levels with toxicity equivalency factors (TEF) developed based on their relative toxicity compared to 2,3,7,8-TCDD. The current European legislation is based on TEFs set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1998 with the results expressed as TEQWHO98. New TEFs were suggested in 2005 with the results expressed as TEQWHO05. [22]

Accidental exposure to dioxin

Accidental exposures had taken place in Seveso and fires in PCB filled electrical equipment, that is why PCBs are being changed in such equipments. Some foods were also accidently contaminated such as an edible oil Yusho (Japan) and Yu-Cheng (Taiwan). Other heavy exposure to dioxins took place in Vietnam resulting from aerial spraying of forests with agent orange (TCDD) contaminating airforce personal and inhabitants of Vietnam.

Maximum Dioxin levels for specific contaminants in foodstuffs

Three important regulation apply from 1 March 2007: Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 sets maximum levels for specific contaminants in foodstuffs. [43] Regulation 1882/2006 sets out the methods testers must use in sampling and analysis for the control of nitrate levels in lettuce and spinach. [44] Regulation 1883/2006, deals with sampling and analysis methods for determining the levels of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in specific foodstuffs.[45]
Much attention is given to mycotoxins, such as setting limits on deoxynivalenol and zearalenone, including cereal bran marketed for direct human consumption and for germination.

The limits of lead in cows milk is extended to sheep and goat milk and their products like cheese. The maximum level of lead in fish was risen from 200 mg/kg to 400 mg/kg to comply with the value of the Codex Alimentarius.

The limit on levels of cadmium found in the liver and kidney has been extended to include horse meat.

Specific aspects of health-related environmental protection

[46] The naturally occurring mercury content of fish in the world's oceans, a source of food for humans, is so low that it does not pose a health risk. This does not apply, however, to species on top of the food chain such as swordfish, the Atlantic halibut or certain species of shark which are exposed to high concentrations, mature slowly and have a long life. These fish may show a rather high mercury content under "natural" conditions. Therefore, in Germany maximum levels of 1mg/kg were laid down for mercury concentrations in fisheries products as early as 1975 to protect consumers' health.

Corresponding provisions at EU level were stipulated in 1993. Since April 2002, maximum levels for lead and cadmium in various foodstuffs such as cereals, vegetables, fruits, additives, meat and fisheries products have been applied EU-wide to protect human health. These maximum levels are also stipulated in Regulation (EC) 1881/2006 [43]. When lead, cadmium and mercury levels were determined in the course of the annual food monitoring, only a small share of food samples exceeded the maximum levels for the heavy metals listed above.

Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are also environmental contaminants. Dioxins are unwanted and unavoidable by-products which must be minimised. They are mainly released through certain industrial thermal or combustion processes, in particular from sintering installations, metal production and residential fireplaces or woodstoves. Dioxins were not and are not produced intentionally. In contrast, PCBs were manufactured for a specific purpose, mainly as non-burning, non-conductive viscous liquids in transformers and hydraulics. Pollution legacies are the main source of dioxin and PCB emissions. Some compounds of these unwanted substances are chemically very stable, particularly toxic and persistent. Both groups of substances accumulate in human and animal fatty tissue. People generally absorb these harmful substances by eating food containing animal fat.

In order to protect consumers, mandatory maximum levels (limit values) for PCBs in various foodstuffs produced from animals were already adopted in 1988. These national limit values were supplemented in 2002 by Europe-wide mandatory maximum levels (limit values) and voluntary action values for dioxins and, since 2006, for dioxin-like PCBs in various foodstuffs.

The perpetrator, not the tax payer must pay for environmental cleanup

[47] The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (December 2009) reduces the need for federal taxpayers to fund the cleanup of environmental releases. The agency has identified three additional industry sectors for which it will begin the regulatory development process for any necessary financial assurance requirements: the chemical manufacturing industry; the petroleum and coal products manufacturing industry, which primarily includes refineries and not coal mines; and the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry. Already included in this program is the hard-rock mining industry.

Financial assurance requirements help ensure that owners and operators of facilities are able to pay for cleanup of environmental releases and help reduce the number of sites that need to be cleaned up by federal taxpayers through the Superfund program, following Section 108(b) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Additional classes of facilities that require further regulations: waste management and remediation services, wood product manufacturing, fabricated metal product manufacturing, electronics and electrical equipment manufacturing, and facilities engaged in the recycling of materials containing CERCLA hazardous substances.


Farmed game are excluded from the limits of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs set for meat and meat products. The limits set for liver, derived products, and fat is now restricted to bovines, sheep, poultry, pigs.

Swiss thickening agent Guar Gum with dioxin

[48] According to the European Commission of an edible thickening agent called guar gum (E412), used in a variety of pre-prepared foods,may contain dioxin and pentachlorophenol contamination. Member States were asked to test all batches of guar gum imported Indian.

High levels of dioxin had been found on the 13.07.2007 in a Swiss-made thickening agent Unipektin branded VIDOCREM with levels of up to 156 picograms of dioxin per gram of fat in additives have been found (Maximum allowed= 6 picograms) .

Official issues claim that there is no immediate health risk to consumers, but as these chemicals have the potential for a range of toxic effects such as high risk of cancer, people shouldn't be exposed to them unnecessarily.

Consumer should avoid products which have thickening agent guar gum in their ingredient list.

The contaminated guar gum had been exported by the India Glycols Limited company.

Dioxin-like PCBs in pork from Ireland

[49] Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) are chemicals that get into our food from the environment.

Foods high in animal fat, such as milk, meat, fish and eggs are the main source of dioxins and PCBs although all foods contains at least low levels of these chemical. Dioxins may be formed as unwanted by-products in a variety of industrial and combustion processes, including household fires.
PCBs have been used since the early 1930s, mainly in electrical equipment, however, their production was stopped in the 1970s.

According to the latest information from the European Rapid Alert System, levels of up to 292 µg/kg polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been detected in pork products from Ireland in December 2008. As this constitutes a major exceeding of the maximum admissible levels in the samples examined, the Irish government has recalled these foods.
The food industry is therefore required to recall from the market all Irish (Republic) pork products produced from pigs slaughtered in Ireland. This includes all raw and cooked pork products e.g. pork, ham, sausages, bacon, gamon steaks etc.

Irish beef is also affected by dioxin scandal

[50] Ireland's Food Safety Authority (FSAI) has confirmed that feed contaminated with dioxins has been fed to some cattle in Ireland.

Dr Andrew Wadge, FSA Chief Scientist, said that the risk from dioxin in beef is significantly lower than in pork. Cattle consume a wider variety of feeds and the way their bodies process the feed is different which makes the risk of contamination much lower.

Republic of Ireland Agriculture Minister Brendan Smith said the levels of dioxins found in the beef were two to three times above safe limits, compared with 200 times for the pig meat. The risk consuming Irish beef is low and therefore beef products are not removed from shelves. Losses with beef are expected to be less serious because there is better traceability in the beef sector than the pork sector. Isolating the affected meat will be easier.

Pesticide in guar gum detected

[51] The Czech Agricultural and Food Inspection (CAFIA) detained one 10 ton guar gum batches (E412) destined for the market in October 2008. The detained guar gum contained 0.046 mg/kg - ppm pentachlorophenol, a pesticide and wood preservative. It is toxic to liver interferes in reproduction, development and rises body temperature. Since 5 May 2008 all charges of guar gum and guar gum products have to be tested by the Indian authorities, or by food operators to enter the EU [52]. Guar gum producing plants are cultivated in India and Pakistan, producing up to 85 per cent of global demand.

Very low levels of pentachlorophenol in contaminated indoor and outdoor air, food, drinking water and soil are present as a result of uninhibited use of the chemical in the past.

In August 2007 and March 2008 dioxin had been detected in guar gum charges and resulted in import safety regulations of testing guar gum. The high dioxin levels were linked to contamination of the guar gum with pentachlorophenol (PCP). Although there was no immediate risk to health, large numbers of food products, including yoghurts and fruit drinks, were withdrawn from sale all over Europe. [53]

Early Detection method for Prion Diseases

Infectious prions can be present decades before symptons appear, an early detection method is needed for early treatment to stop the spread of the Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Prion diseases are difficult to diagnose, untreatable and ultimately fatal. Brain tissue dies out and sponge-like holes are formed in the brain.

Real time quaking induced conversion assay, or RT-QuIC prion detection method

[54] Infectious prions are also found outside the brain, in saliva, blood, breast milk, urine and the nasal and cerebral spinal fluids, however, their concentrations in these bodily fluids are to low to be measured with available methods.

A new prion detection method, called real time quaking induced conversion assay, or RT-QuIC was has been developed by by Byron Caughey. Using this technique the small amounts of infectious prions are leaded to convert large amounts of normal prion protein into an abnormal form which enables their detection. The test detected high levels of prions in nasal fluids of hamsters, pointing to such fluids as possible sources of contagion in various prion diseases. RT-QuIC related applications might also be used to diagnose similar neurodegenerative protein diseases, such as Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases.

William and colleagues 2010 estimate the relative amount of prions using the RT-QuIC prion detection method. [55]

Quantitative N-terminal amino acid profiling (N-TAAP) for TSE diagnosis

[56] Gielbert and colleagues 2009 report a method to identify differences between bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the classical scrapie and experimental transmissible spongiform encephalopathy strains.

Diagnosis of TSE is based on the detection of the abnormal protease-resistant prion protein (PrP(Sc)). Proteolysis by proteinase K (PK) generates protease-resistant products (PrP(res)) with partially variable N-termini.The N-terminal aminoacid profiles (N-TAAPs) is , and can be determined with the method developed by Gilbert and colleagues

Fluorescence Spectroscopy of the Retina for Diagnosis to detect mad cow disease

[57] Fluorescence spectra of the eye for diagnosis of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) may become a new diagnostic tool analysing differences in the fluorescence intensity and spectroscopic signatures. It is based on the accumulation of lipofuscin in the retina. The detection of infectious prion diseases in animals could help prevent the disease from spreading in the food supply.


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