* Balkan neighbours take steps to tackle milk contamination
* Tests show high levels of aflatoxin
ZAGREB Feb 22 Croatia's leading dairy, Dukat,
temporarily halted the purchase of milk from 180 local farms on
Friday over high levels of a potentially carcinogenic toxin that
has turned up in milk across the region.
It was the latest step in a Balkan milk scare triggered when
laboratory tests confirmed higher-than-prescribed levels of
aflatoxin, a product of the Aspergillus fungi often found in
"We are aware of the possible consequences for farmers and
for us, but we had to suspend the purchase because of the safety
of our consumers," Dukat's general manager, Alen Fontana, said
in a statement.
Dukat said the high levels of aflatoxin were caused by the
use of "improper cattle food" and that it would test milk from
local farms again next week. The scare follows a long drought in
the region last year, which agriculture experts said had
affected the quality of fodder.
Dukat and two other Croatian dairies dairies, Vindija and
Meggle, withdrew some of their long-life milk from shops earlier
In neighbouring Serbia, authorities on Tuesday ordered an
unspecified number of dairies to withdraw their milk pending the
results of tests for aflatoxin conducted in the Netherlands. The
results are expected within days.
It followed a ban in Bosnia in late January on milk imports
from some Croatian producers. The ban was lifted this week but
the government said inspectors would continue testing imported
and locally-produced milk.
Bosnia's state veterinary office said that milk from one
Bosnian dairy had failed the tests.
Montenegro has also withdrawn from shops six brands of milk
from neighbouring Bosnia and Serbia, and ordered all 16 local
dairies and about 3,000 small producers to halt milk production
pending further checks.
Montenegro has banned the import of fodder from Serbia, its
main trade partner and supplier.
The scare comes as much of the rest of Europe is dealing
with a scandal over the mislabelling of horse meat as beef in
some processed foods, highlighting the complexities of the food
chain across the trading bloc.
(Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic in Zagreb, Aleksandar Vasovic
in Belgrade, Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo and Petar Komnenic in
Podgorica; editing by Andrew Roche)