EU worries over possible new foodscare

A new food scare is spreading across Europe, after the discovery of chloramphenicol, an antibiotic which can stop blood cell production, in animal feed. It is feared that meat infected by the antibiotic, originally used to fight diseases in shrimps, may already have reached supermarkets.

Tests revealed that veal exported to Germany, France and Austria from a Dutch slaughterhouse contained a powerful antibiotic. Chloramphenicol, a product used to fight potentially deadly diseases such as anthrax and typhoid, can cause a potentially lethal form of anaemia in humans by blocking the formation of blood cells.

It seems that the antibiotic, chloramphenicol, would orginally have been used in shrimps that were imported in the Netherlands from Asia. The frozen shrimps were used in fish meal in Germany, and sent to European countries where they were fed to livestock. About a dozen firms would so far have received the feed: six in Germany, two in Austria, and one in Denmark, in Poland and in Romania.

A spokesman for the farm ministry in Germany's Lower Saxony said there were no precise numbers on the parties which received this feed, but he indicated that "it is larger than previously thought". Initial tests in Lower Saxony did not detect the antibiotic in the feed itself, but more tests need to be conducted. The German opposition party CDU called for the resignation of farm minister Künast

Thailand, the leading exporter of frozen shrimp, already announced it would ban the use of chloramphenicol by shrimp farms and restrict imports of the antibiotic.

The Commission has asked Germany and the Netherlands for more information on this possible foodscare issue. The issue will be discussed next week at the European Commission's Standing Veterinary Committee.


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