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Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Cancer link chemicals in farm's eggs
chicken eggs
The tests revealed high dioxin levels in eggs from one farm
An investigation has begun in north Wales after tests revealed high levels of cancer-causing chemicals in tests on chicken eggs taken near foot-and-mouth pyres.

The tests at an Anglesey farm were conducted on eggs, milk, grass and samples of soil.

The eggs were found to have PCB - a cancer-causing chemical - levels three times higher than the top end of normal expected levels.

chicken
The dioxins were detected in chicken eggs
But the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which carried out the investigation, said the problem was concentrated on one farm and was unlikely to be linked to the burning of slaughtered animals.

Protesters against the burning of animals on Anglesey and at Epynt, mid Wales, have repeatedly raised concerns about possible toxins being released from animal burning.

But food experts have turned their attention to chicken feed as a possible source and scientists are now carrying out further tests.

The levels of dioxins and PCBs detected in the samples were not above expected background levels, preliminary results showed.

Further tests

The farm, which has not been named, was a small breeding site and the eggs were not sold to the public.

The FSA was originally alerted by the farmer who reported that two deformed chicks had been born on his farm.

PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls - are known to cause mutations as well as cancer.
Carcasses prepared for incineration
The burning of culled animals has raised concerns

The absence of unusually high amounts of dioxin indicates that the problem was probably not linked to the pyres.

But the FSA is concerned about the possible gradual build-up of chemicals in the eggs sampled, which could alter further test results.

Duck eggs also tested on the farm had normal levels of both dioxins and PCBs.

The FSA has been conducting a nationwide programme testing dioxin and PCB levels from samples taken from within a two kilometre radius of foot-and-mouth pyres last month.

Dr Jon Bell, deputy chief executive and director of food safety at the FSA, said he was pleased the results on the dairy cows were not positive.


We need to assist the farmer to find out what the source of the problem is

Dr Jon Bell, Food Standards Agency
He said: "If the profile is going to change it will change over the next set of results. We expect more results next week, and they might give a different picture."

Dozens of Anglesey farms were affected by foot-and-mouth restrictions and thousands of animals have been burnt or buried on the island since the first cases were detected in February.

Restrictions were lifted earlier this month by Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Carwyn Jones.

Dr Bell added: "These are results we're just getting to grips with and obviously we need to assist the farmer to find out what the source of the problem is."

He said a connection with foot-and-mouth pyres could not be ruled out completely but it was extremely unlikely.

"We wouldn't have expected to see the PCB levels high and the dioxins not, and that is what we're seeing at the moment," he said.

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See also:

05 Apr 01 | Wales
Anglesey cull drawing to close
30 Mar 01 | Wales
Anglesey carcass disposal deal
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