Food agency aware of presence of fipronil in June

Summary

According to the federal agriculture minister, requests to the Dutch government for more information on eggs contaminated with fipronil went unanswerd for a month

Codes of unsafe eggs released

Federal agriculture minister Denis Ducarme appeared before the parliamentary committee for agriculture this week and blamed the current egg crisis on the Dutch government. He claimed it had waited for a month to respond to requests from Belgium for specific information.

A number of supermarket chains have withdrawn Belgian eggs from sale in the light of evidence that they contain traces of fipronil, albeit at levels under the limits set by the European Union.

The insecticide has been traced back to a Dutch pest control firm, Chickfriend, which used a legal product mixed with fipronil in multiple locations across Europe, contaminating eggs.

Chickfried is being investigated, as is its pesticide supplier, the Antwerp company Poultry Vision. It is not yet clear where the fipronil - which is banned from use in poultry farms - was mixed with the other insecticide.

Belgium’s Federal Food Safety Agency (FAVV) was aware of the contamination as early as June, Ducarme told the committee. Eggs from one distributor in particular, in Sint-Niklaas, were destroyed.

FAVV is now being criticised by Belgian and European authorities for its lack of communication when it discovered fipronil in June. According to Ducarme, the government requested information from the Netherlands at that time but received no answer for a month.

He also said that the Netherlands was aware of fipronil contamination as far back as November. “We were never informed,” he told the commission. “Had we known, we could have reacted faster.”

Meanwhile, the federal food safety agency has released the codes of eggs that are considered unsafe to eat. Although the levels of fipronil remain under European safety limits, the agency is advising customers to either discard the eggs or bring them back to the place of purchase.

The codes are: 2BE3084-02, 2BE3084-03, 2BE3084-06, 2BE3123-A, 2BE3123-B, 2BE3123-C, 3BE4004, 3BE4005, 1BE8016, 3BE3114.

Photo: Health minister Maggie De Block and agriculture minister Denis Ducarme in parliament earlier this week
©Virgine Lefour/BELGA

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