Egg scandal across Belgium, Germany and Netherlands launched a criminal inquiry when tests indicated high levels of contamination; now, Belgium accuses Netherlands of knowledge since last year.
In just the first few days of August, millions of eggs were pulled from stores across Germany and the Netherlands after a sample was found to contain toxic levels of the insecticide fipronil.
Although the bulk of the egg scandal didn’t make headline news until August, Belgian officials have admitted to knowing of the fipronil contamination in June. Now, Belgian officials are accusing the Netherlands of having knowledge of the contamination even earlier.
According to the BBC, Belgian Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme claimed a document shows the Dutch knew of the issue in Nov. 2016. This revelation was unveiled during a Belgian parliamentary hearing on the egg scandal.
The German supermarket giant Aldi pulled all eggs off the shelf from their stores in Germany last week. Aldi followed in the footsteps of fellow German supermarket group REWE, who desired to give their clients “total transparency,” according to The Guardian.
As early as Aug. 3, 180 farms in the Netherlands were temporarily shut down and a criminal inquiry launched The Guardian reports. Authorities wish to understand the true scale of the contamination.
The insecticide in question is banned from use in the production of food for human consumption. Fipronil is commonly found in veterinary products that are used to treat fleas, lice and ticks. It is banned from use in animals that are either destined for human consumption, or whose byproducts are. Tests were drawn from chicken droppings, blood and eggs.
According to the World Health Organization, when ingested, high levels of fipronil can harm a person’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands over time.
The Netherlands is the largest egg producer in Europe and one of the largest egg exporters worldwide. The country produces 11bn eggs a year, more than half of which is exported, with Germany being the main importer.
Dutch food and product safety board, NVWA, has been criticized for its response and handling of the egg scandal. Confusing messages from the board officials reported first that there was no danger to human health. They then changed their tune to tell consumers to avoid eating eggs completely.
Previous reports, such as in Poultry World, suggest the illegal fipronil was mixed with a legal insecticide to improve effectiveness. The exact cause of the contamination is still unknown.
The NVWA has put forward a statement concluding the fipronil was used with a detergent to clean chicken pens to fight red lice.