Poison levels in dairy foods

Disturbing levels of the poison dioxin have been discovered in some French dairy products, according to the newspaper Le Monde. Although the quantities identified are far below the accepted danger level, some are higher than the limits recommended by the Council of Europe. One of the milk-producing areas worst affected, apparently by atmospheric pollution from surrounding industry, is the Pas-de-Calais, just across the Channel from Kent.

According to Le Monde, a study commissioned by the French agriculture ministry - and never published - found significant levels of dioxin in 19 out of 40 samples taken in 34 French departements. The Council of Europe recommends that dioxin in dairy products should remain below 1 picogram per gram of fat. Above 5 picograms, the products must be removed from the market. Most of the samples showed dioxin levels at just below or just over 1 picograms. Two findings in the Pas-de-Calais and Seine Maritime were above 3 picograms.

The French Ministry of Agriculture said it regarded the results as "acceptable". Most of the findings were close to the "target" set by the Council of Europe, it said.