Egg probe widens to chicken meat tests

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

THE HAGUE — In a new twist in Europe’s tainted egg scan­dal, Dutch au­thor­i­ties have an­nounced that they had started test­ing chicken meat com­ing from af­fected poul­try farms to de­ter­mine whether it, too, was con­tam­i­nated.

Sci­en­tists are look­ing for the pres­ence of the in­sec­ti­cide fipronil, a sub­stance po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous to hu­mans, af­ter su­per­mar­kets in Ger­many, the Nether­lands, Bel­gium, Swe­den and Switzer­land pulled mil­lions of eggs from the shelves.

“We are cur­rently test­ing chicken meat in the poul­try farms where eggs were in­fected to de­ter­mine whether the meat is con­tam­i­nated as well,” said Tjitte Mas­ten­broek, spokesman for food se­cu­rity agency NVWA.

The probe fo­cuses on “a few dozen” farms that pro­duce both eggs and chicken meat, NVWA said.

Mil­lions of chick­ens now face be­ing culled in the Nether­lands as the scan­dal widens.

Hard-hit Ger­many on Tues­day called on Bel­gian and Dutch au­thor­i­ties to quickly shed light on what it termed a “crim­i­nal net­work” in­volved in the con­tam­i­na­tion of eggs with fipronil.

“When one sees a crim­i­nal en­ergy that’s al­most or­ga­nized as a net­work it’s un­ac­cept­able,” Ger­man Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Chris­tian Sch­midt said.

He again crit­i­cized Bel­gian and Dutch au­thor­i­ties’ tardy re­sponse to the cri­sis.

‘High­est pri­or­ity’

Bel­gium’s top agri­cul­tural of­fi­cial on Mon­day or­dered the coun­try’s food safety agency to re­port within a day why it failed to no­tify neigh­bor­ing coun­tries un­til July 20 de­spite know­ing about fipronil con­tam­i­na­tion since June.

“It’s not in the spirit of the early warn­ing sys­tem to be aware in June but only to in­form us by the end of July,” Sch­midt said.

Mas­ten­broek said that a crim­i­nal probe by the NVWA un­der Dutch pros­e­cu­tion au­thor­i­ties and as­sisted by Bel­gium is con­tin­u­ing, look­ing at the role of com­pa­nies in con­tam­i­nat­ing Dutch poul­try farms with fipronil.

Mas­ten­broek said so far her agency’s “high­est pri­or­ity” has been the de­tec­tion of con­tam­i­nated eggs.

“But now we also have the time to look at meat as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure,” she said.

Most farms ex­clu­sively pro­duce one or the other, said Eric Hu­bers at LTO, a Dutch farm­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion.

If the meat tests are neg­a­tive for fipronil, pro­duc­ers will be cleared to re­sume sales, Mas­ten­broek said.

LTO said the prob­a­bil­ity of chicken meat found to be in­fected was small.

FRAN­COIS LENOIR / REUTERS

Eggs are packed to be sold at a poul­try farm in Wor­tel near An­twerp, Bel­gium, on Tues­day.

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