EU food & health commissioner calls meeting over contaminated eggs

As more and more countries are destroying fipronil contaminated eggs from the Netherlands, Euro commissioner for food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis wants a meeting of EU ministers and food safety watchdogs to discuss the problem, public broadcaster NOS reports.

Andriukaitis hoped the meeting could take place before the end of September. ‘We have to learn from what happened and move forward instead of wasting energy on unhelpful accusations’, NOS quotes him as saying.

Tensions have been running high between ministers and junior ministers in Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany ever since the harmful delousing pesticide, thought to have sold by Dutch company Chickfriend, was found in the eggs. Two of the company directors were arrested following raids on Thursday.

Earlier this week, Belgian agriculture minister Denis Ducarme accused the Dutch government of negligence for failing to act on an anonymous tip Dutch food safety watchdog NVWA had received about the presence of fipronil as early as November last year.

Dutch ministers

But junior economic affairs minister Martijn van Dam and health minister Edith Schippers said in a letter to parliament that the tip concerned the use of the chemical as a disinfectant and that there was no reason to assume the chemical could end up in the eggs. Van Dam has since accused the Belgian minister of misinforming his government.

But the ministers’ handling of the case has come in for criticism at home as well. Toxicologists find the government’s argument ‘disingenuous’.  Earlier reports from the European Food safety Authority (EFSA), one of which dates back as far as 2006, state that fipronil is ‘averagely to highly persistent’ meaning that the substance remains present in the environment for months after spraying. A report from 2014 even states explicitly that the substance may end up in eggs and chickens, the Volkskrant  writes.

‘Chickens are constantly pecking at the ground so they ingest all sorts of substances in the environment,’ Ivonne Rietjens of Wageningen University told the paper.

Contaminated eggs have now been found in ten European countries, including Britain. On Thursday the Telegraph wrote that a total of 700,000 contaminated eggs may already have been consumed in the country.

‘Supermarkets Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are all urgently withdrawing millions of fresh salads, sandwiches and fillers which contain the infected eggs,’ the Telegraph writes.

Experts emphasise that fipronil is only dangerous to health if consumed in large quantities. It is used to combat fleas in cats and dogs but is banned in animals which form part of the food chain.

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