Food safety scandal deepens as Dutch authorities are accused of not passing on early discovery of fipronil in eggs
Europe’s latest food scandal has deepened as Belgium accused the Dutch authorities of failing to sound the alarm after discovering eggs were being contaminated with a harmful insecticide as early as November last year.
The Belgian agriculture minister, Denis Ducarme, told a parliamentary hearing that his officials had obtained an internal Dutch document that reported “the observation of the presence of fipronil in Dutch eggs at the end of November 2016”.
“When a country like the Netherlands, one of the world’s biggest exporters of eggs, does not pass on this kind of information, that is a real problem,” Ducarme said. The minister suggested the evidence had only come to him “by chance”, rather than through official channels.
The insecticide scandal became public on 1 August when it was revealed that tests had found that fipronil, a toxic anti-lice agent, banned from use in the production of products for human consumption, had found its way into the food chain.
Authorities in the Netherlands ordered eggs pulled from supermarket shelves, and temporarily closed down nearly around 180 farms. Millions of eggs were subsequently removed from shelves in Belgium and Germany.
Food safety agencies in Britain, France, Sweden and Switzerland have been also put on alert to check the origin of eggs sold in their stores. Chickens bred for meat are also undergoing spot checks due to fears of contamination. Millions of hens are to be slaughtered as a consequence of the scandal, leaving the poultry industry in disarray.
A Dutch company, ChickFriend, and a Belgian firm, Poultry-Vision, are both under investigation.