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Germans go organic in dioxin scare

China halts German pork, egg imports in dioxin scare
Beijing (AFP) Jan 12, 2011 - China said it had halted the import of German pork and egg products after authorities in Germany announced some were found to contain high levels of dioxin. China has banned imports of "German-produced edible pork and egg products," the country's product safety watchdog announced in a statement on its website dated Tuesday. It said the ban was effective immediately. Chinese authorities also said they would inspect products shipped from Germany prior to Tuesday and would release them only if they were found to be safe. The watchdog agency said the move was aimed at safeguarding the health of consumers in China. It gave no other details.

German authorities on Tuesday ordered the slaughter of hundreds of pigs after finding high levels of dioxin in pork for the first time since shutting down thousands of farms for tests last week. China is typically a target of food product bans due to frequent safety scares stemming from dangerous, contaminated or substandard goods. In one of the worst cases, the industrial chemical melamine was found in the products of 22 Chinese dairy companies in 2008 in a massive scandal blamed for the deaths of at least six infants and for sickening 300,000 others. Reports of tainted red wine, bleached mushrooms, fake tofu, dyed oranges and rice noodles made with rotten grain have all surfaced in recent months.
by Staff Writers
Berlin (AFP) Jan 12, 2011
At the popular Bio Company store in Berlin's Kreuzberg district, the shelves are virtually bare, as demand for organic meat and eggs spikes amid a dioxin crisis that has shaken Germans' faith in food.

"Dioxin: Bio products are not affected," screams a notice in capital letters by the empty meat shelves, the firm differentiating its food from mass-produced goods at the heart of a scandal that has affected poultry, eggs and pork.

Demand at the store has rocketed since the scare broke last week, said Silke Unwetter, store assistant. "We have been selling at least twice as much meat and eggs," she said.

"We are having to get in extra deliveries to keep up with demand."

Just around the corner, at the "LPG Biomarket", the empty shelves tell a similar story.

Customer Redmond Nielsen, a 41-year-old garden designer, said he had already changed his shopping habits in light of the crisis.

"I've definitely cut back on buying meat. As for eggs, I always bought free-range before, but now I make sure I buy organic," he said.

At the high point of the crisis last week, authorities banned more than 4,700 farms from selling their goods and destroyed more than 100,000 eggs as a precautionary measure.

At the root of the scandal is a firm in the north of the country suspected of knowingly supplying animal feed manufacturers with fats intended only for industrial use.

They were then used to make as much as 150,000 tonnes of animal feed used across Germany.

Tests have found higher than permitted levels of dioxin, which can cause cancer, in eggs and in three chickens, according to the federal agriculture ministry.

And just as hopes were growing that the crisis had eased, with more than 4,000 farms reopened, it emerged on Tuesday the contamination had spread to pork, one of Germany's favourite dishes.

One Bio Company customer, 55-year-old Jens Ellerbeck, could barely contain his rage at the industry that had allowed this crisis to occur.

"I always buy organic because I simply don't trust the food industry. It's a mafia. They are just criminals," he said.

Margit Beck from poultry market research firm MEG confirmed the anecdotal evidence. "It's certain that people are increasingly reaching for organic eggs," she told AFP, adding there was a "clear drop" in overall egg demand.

And as Germans turn away from battery-farmed produce, fears were growing of a shortage in organic food.

The chairman of the German Federation for Organic Food (BOELW), Felix Prinz zu Loewenstein, said his members were already reporting shortages.

"The market was not very well supplied before the crisis and the chickens are not laying any more quickly," he told AFP.

"I have the feeling that there is an increasing scarcity."

The organic market in Germany is by far the biggest in Europe, with sales of over five billion euros (6.5 billion dollars) in 2008, according to the latest available BOELW figures.

The next biggest market, Britain, is worth two billion euros.

And eggs are the most popular of "bio" products, according to the BOELW, citing a survey showing that 63 percent of organic shoppers put eggs in their baskets, just ahead of fruits and potatoes.

Now with demand for their eggs shooting up, organic producers are scrambling to keep up supply but finding it difficult, said Beck.

"The amount of organic eggs cannot be increased in the short term. There is only a certain number of organic chickens and they cannot work overtime," she said.

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German pig cull after dioxin find
Berlin (AFP) Jan 11, 2011
German authorities ordered the slaughter of hundreds of pigs on Tuesday after finding high levels of dioxin in pork for the first time since shutting down thousands of farms for tests last week. "A test on the meat has shown high levels of dioxin content," Gert Hahne, a spokesman for the agriculture ministry in the state of Lower Saxony, told AFP. "The animals must be slaughtered and will th ... read more

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