The move comes in the wake of the crisis that has seen dioxin-contaminated fatty acids spread, first through the feed and then through the food chain both in Germany and in several other European countries over the past two weeks.
Strengthening a host of legal requirements for food and feed producers and the setting up of a dioxin early warning system were among the measures tabled by the Federal Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection Minister Ilse Aigner. The Minister said the overall aim of the proposals was to improve the quality of food and feed monitoring.
It also emerged yesterday that Harles and Jentzsch, the company at the centre of the scandal, had filed for bankruptcy. The firm, based in Uetersen, north-west of Hamburg, is under investigation by German authorities over its involvement in the production of thousands of tonnes of dioxin-tainted animal feed. Last week, the third party audit body GMP+ withdrew its certification.
Aigner declared the plan would compel manufacturers to have “strict separation of production flows” for materials for industrial and feed/food uses. It also proposes introducing a licensing system for oil and fat producers as well as extending legal requirements for the inspection and subsequent reporting on animal feed products.
In a bid to “hedge the liability risk”, German food business operators would be required to take out public and product liability insurance or equivalent protection. It suggested the scheme should be implemented at an EU level.
Under the proposals, which the Minister will present to the German cabinet on 19 January, private laboratories will have a legal obligation to report adverse findings of “dubious amounts of undesirable substances” in samples sent to them by feed and food manufacturers.
The plan calls for a mandatory Europe-wide positive ingredient list to ensure practices in the animal feed sectors are secure and transparent.
An early warning system will also be created for dioxin testing by pooling test results in a data bank. Overall testing quality must be improved and local authorities must make dioxin finds public immediately, she said.
Pressure appears to be mounting for the European Union to take a lead and introduce some form of regulation. Yesterday, Belgium called on the European Commission to introduce rules on fats and oils across the economic bloc as it was clear that industry self-regulation was failing.
“The Belgian Agency pleaded with the Commission for harmonization of preventive measures strengthened in respect of area of fats and oils and animal feed,” said the country’s food safety agency AFSCA. “Too many incidents show that some industry players are not proficient enough risk or for economic reasons are tempted by defrauding farmers and consumers.”