- Associated Press - Saturday, January 8, 2011

BERLIN (AP) - German investigators have found excessive levels of cancer-causing dioxin in chicken _ the first such confirmation of tainted meat since the discovery that German farm animals had eaten contaminated feed, possibly for months.

Three chickens _ out of 15 samples of chicken, turkey and pork sent to the EU Commission _ showed a dioxin concentration twice as high as legally allowed, an Agriculture Ministry spokesman said Saturday.

Excessive dioxin levels were previously discovered in German eggs.

The spokesman said the meat of the contaminated chickens was not sold but eating it would not have been harmful in the short term since the contamination level was so low. He declined to be named in line with government policy.

Germany has frozen sales of poultry, pork and eggs from more than 4,700 farms to stem the spread of food that could have been contaminated with dioxin after livestock feed was found to be tainted.

Fat produced for use in feed pellets contained more than 77 times the approved amount of dioxin, according to tests published Friday by the Schleswig-Holstein state agriculture ministry. The agency also said it had information the German firm Harles & Jentzsch GmbH had been producing tainted fat for months.

Harles & Jentzsch did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

Dioxins are contaminants that often result from industrial combustion, and exposure to them at high levels is linked to an increased incidence of cancer.

The scandal broke after regular random testing revealed excessive dioxin levels in eggs in western Germany. More than 8,000 chickens were ordered slaughtered and tainted food fears spread to Germany’s famous pork industry.

South Korea and Slovakia on Friday banned the sale of some animal products imported from Germany, while authorities in Britain, Italy and the Netherlands were investigating whether food containing German eggs was safe to eat.

In Britain, supermarkets giants like Tesco, Morrison’s and Sainsbury’s removed cakes, quiches and other egg products from their shelves after it was confirmed that eggs contaminated with dioxins had been used to produce them.

The British Food Standards Agency said supermarkets had already sold most of the affected food, which had a short shelf life, but added the risks to humans were minimal.

“There is no food safety risk from eating these products,” the agency said on its website.

Italian Health Minister Ferruccio Fazio told Italian TV on Saturday his ministry has asked all farmers who import eggs, milk or meat from Germany to check on dioxin levels, but he said no Italian farmers imported the contaminated feed.

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