Dutch and Belgian police investigators search for eggs contaminated with fipronil

August 10, 2017 10:30 pm

This photo taken on August 8, 2017 in Merkplas shows eggs for sale at a food warehouse, during investigations into contaminated eggs in northern . (Photo by AFP)

Dutch and Belgian police investigators have arrested two suspects and conducted coordinated raids as part of a probe into the illegal use of a banned insecticide in the poultry industry.
“It relates to two managers at the company that allegedly used the substance (fipronil) at poultry farms,” the Dutch public prosecution service spokeswoman, Marieke van der Molen, said. The Dutch media have named the suspects’ company as Chickfriend.
In connection with the use of fipronil insecticide, the spokeswoman added, “There are several raids being held in , in conjunction with the Belgians.”
Dutch and Belgian prosecutors earlier this month opened a fraud investigation into how fipronil, which can harm human health, got into the food chain.
The Netherlands prosecution service said millions of chicken eggs have been pulled from European supermarket shelves as a result of the scare over the use of the insecticide fipronil, and hundreds of thousands of hens may be culled in the Netherlands.
Molen said raids had been conducted at locations belonging to customers of a company that allegedly used a controversial insecticide.
Molen’s announcement came after Belgium on Wednesday accused the Netherlands’ food safety authority NVWA of failing to inform the Belgians that its eggs were tainted with insecticide despite knowing about the problem of fipronil in eggs since November 2016, but failing to inform them until July.
NVWA denied that it had known definitively about the contamination so soon, but admitted it had received an anonymous tip about a banned poison being used in chicken pens in order to kill red lice.
The insecticide scandal only became public on August 1 when authorities in the Netherlands ordered eggs pulled from supermarket shelves and urged shoppers to throw away their egg supply.
In the Netherlands, several million hens may need to be culled at 150 companies in the country, with 300,000 having already been killed.
Contaminated eggs have since been discovered in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, France and the UK.
The European Commission said on Monday the eggs under suspicion of contamination had also been distributed to France and Britain via Germany.
UK food authorities said about 700,000 suspicious eggs had entered the country.
Fipronil is commonly used in veterinary products to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks, but is banned by the EU from being used to treat animals destined for human consumption, such as chickens.
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO ) categorizes fipronil a as “moderately hazardous” risk .
If taken in significant quantities, fipronil can have dangerous effects on people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.
The problem is believed to stem from a substance used by a Dutch company, Chickfriend, that farmers in the Netherlands and Belgium say they hired to treat their chickens.
A lawyer for a Belgian company, Poultry-Vision, says the firm sold it to Chickfriend but has not said where it got the substance.
The French government says a Belgian company — which it did not identify — mixed fipronil with another, lawful, substance.

Image shows suspicious eggs being destroyed in the Netherlands, on August 3, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Horsemeat scandal
The egg scandal comes shortly after another food scandal shocked European consumers.
The European police agency, Europol, said 66 people had been arrested for trading horsemeat unfit for human consumption last month.
Europol said 65 people had been arrested in Spain, and the main suspect, a Dutch citizen, had been arrested in Belgium.
Europol said it had seized bank accounts, properties, and luxury cars belonging to the fraudsters.
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