The EU is to introduce additional rules on animal feed controls including a rapid alert system that will give the European Commission authority to adopt fast-track safeguard measures in emergency cases.

The rules, which aim largely at preventing a recurrence of the dioxin contamination crisis, include a total ban on the dilution of contaminated feed materials and the setting of maximum limits for substances like mercury, dioxin, lead and cadmium.

"Safe food starts with safe feed", David Byrne, consumer protection commissioner said. The new rules "will give us the essential tools to manage a feed crisis in the Community, and to stop a crisis, if it occurs, from spinning out of control."

By Alan Osborn, correspondent