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Reuters, June 12, 1999

Tests of Belgian eggs reveal high PCB levels-Bonn

BONN, June 12 (Reuters) - Germany's federal health ministry said on Saturday that tests carried out on Belgian eggs had revealed levels of the toxic chemical PCB exceeding national safety limits by up to 65 times.

The findings come hard on the heels of Belgium's dioxin food scandal and the health ministry urged Brussels to widen its investigations into tainted foods to include PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls.

PCBs are highly poisonous and affect the nervous system if consumed by humans. They are man-made chemicals that create dioxins when heated.

``Although some of the results were under legal safety limits, the suspicion appears to have been confirmed that Belgian eggs may have been tainted with PCBs as well as dioxin,'' the ministry said.

``Further investigations must clear up this matter,'' the ministry added in a statement.

The tests were carried out by Belgian authorities on eight batches of fertilised chicken eggs intended for use in the breeding industry.

Their results were evaluated by Germany's Institute for Consumer Health Protection and Veterinary Medicine, and were deemed by the German health ministry to merit further action even though the eggs were not for eating but for chick-rearing.

Separately, Germany's Spiegel news weekly reported that spot tests carried out on Friday in North Rhine-Westphalia, a state bordering Belgium, had revealed high levels of both Dioxin and PCB's in samples of Belgian eggs and chicken products.

And some Belgian meat, imported into Germany before the recent contaminated-food scare, was also found to contain high levels of PCB, authorities in Hesse state said on Friday.

Tests on a batch of chickenburgers imported from Belgium, where carcinogenic dioxin was found in chicken food sparking an international clamp-down on Belgian food imports, revealed levels of PCBsway above the highest acceptable amount.

The federal health ministry said on Friday it had ordered all 16 German states to test Belgian food imports for PCBs along with the cancer-causing dioxin after it was alerted on Thursday to the possibility that the toxic chemical may also have been in the tainted meal fed to chickens in Belgium.

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