Nationwide tests ordered as DDT traces found in chickens

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Nationwide tests ordered as DDT traces found in chickens

The government decided to test every chicken raised on an egg-producing farm nationwide to see if they are contaminated with the insecticide Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), after chickens from two farms in North Gyeongsang were found to contain the substance.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs had previously promised to conduct residual substance tests on hens at the 52 farms where eggs were found to contain pesticides last week. Layer hens are typically slaughtered when they are 70 weeks old and sold as food.

On Wednesday night the ministry decided to expand the tests after 12 chickens from the same two farms in North Gyeongsang were found to contain DDT. Two chickens exceeded the maximum permitted level.

The two farms, located in Gyeongsan and Yeongcheon, denied using DDT, a substance banned in Korea since 1973. As they were both free-range farms and had formerly been used to grow apples and peaches, experts say it’s possible that traces of DDT had remained in the ground and contaminated the hens.

The state-run Rural Development Administration is running an investigation to determine the source of the DDT at both farms.

The ministry confirmed that both farms last slaughtered a batch of layer hens to be sold as food in 2016, so it is likely that the chickens ended up on consumers’ tables after that. A ministry spokesman, however, explained that it’s highly unlikely that these chickens would have ended up at fried chicken franchises because of their low quality.

The ministry announced Thursday that all the hens at the two farms would be culled that day. A total of approximately 12,700 hens were culled.

The DDT tests will take place at slaughterhouses. To reassure consumers, the ministry decided to expand the DDT tests to all chickens, ducks and quailed farmed in Korea. This boosts the number of investigations that will be conducted this year from 540 to more than 1,000.

DDT was once one of the most commonly used pesticides in Korea, and is known to cause health problems including liver damage and cancer when consumed.

DDT has been banned in many countries around the world since the 1970s and was restricted globally by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants since 2004.

Meanwhile, the government has been criticized as it was revealed that chickens from the two farms were not subject to pesticide tests before distribution.

Under the current system, a small sample of chicken at a slaughterhouse is tested, although slaughterhouses typically treat chicken from multiple farms.

President Moon Jae-in ordered his administration to create a white paper on the pesticide egg crisis during a meeting on Thursday, after the government was highly criticized for its weak response last week. Government officials also discussed looking into livestock-related laws related to the cultivation environment and the eco-friendly farm system.

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