Food Standards Agency
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Update on dioxin contamination in Germany

The FSA is providing further information about the ongoing investigation into the dioxin contamination of poultry and pork farms in Germany.

The German authorities have lifted restrictions on more than 3,500 farms and investigations of the remainder are continuing. We have been informed that levels of dioxins above the legal limit have been found in pigs from two of the restricted farms. However, the levels found would not be a risk to health. At this time, we have been advised that all the animals from the affected farms have been destroyed and that no meat from these animals has entered the food chain.

We have also been informed that some of the potentially contaminated feed from Germany was sent to France and Denmark. We currently have no evidence that any of the feed has been delivered to the UK and the feed industry has confirmed that it is highly unlikely that such feed would be imported from Europe.

We are closely monitoring the situation and met with representatives of the UK food and feed industry on Tuesday 11 January to gather further information and to ensure the industry continues checking that their supplies do not come from potentially contaminated sources. We will continue to provide further updates as information becomes available.

The science behind the story

Dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are chemicals that get into our food from the environment. They have no immediate effect on our health but can cause problems if they are absorbed into our bodies at high levels for long periods.

Foods high in animal fat, such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy products (and foods produced with them) are the main source of dioxins and PCBs although all foods contains at least low levels of these chemicals. The levels of dioxins and PCBs in any one individual's diet will vary depending on the amounts and types of foods they eat.

The risk to health comes from eating food with high levels of dioxins and PCBs over a long period. They have been shown to cause a wide range of effects in certain animals, including cancer and damage to the immune and reproductive systems, although it appears that people may be less sensitive.