Bel­gium ac­cuses Dutch of tainted eggs cover-up

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

BRUS­SELS — Bel­gium has ac­cused the Nether­lands of fail­ing to in­form it that eggs were tainted with in­sec­ti­cide de­spite know­ing about the prob­lem since Novem­ber, as Europe’s lat­est food safety scan­dal deep­ened.

Newly ap­pointed Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter De­nis Du­carme told a par­lia­men­tary hear­ing on Wed­nes­day that Bel­gian’s food safety agency ob­tained an in­ter­nal Dutch doc­u­ment that “re­ports the ob­ser­va­tion of the pres­ence of fipronil in Dutch eggs at the end of Novem­ber 2016”.

“When a coun­try like the Nether­lands, one of the world’s big­gest ex­porters of eggs, does not pass on this kind of in­for­ma­tion, that is a real prob­lem,” said Du­carme, adding he has de­manded an ex­pla­na­tion from his Dutch col­leagues.

The Dutch food and goods watch­dog NVWA rejected the claim.

“The al­le­ga­tions that we knew about fipronil in eggs in Novem­ber 2016 are un­true,” NVWA In­spec­tor-Gen­eral Rob van Lint said in a state­ment.

How­ever, he ad­mit­ted his body re­ceived an “anony­mous tip-off ” in Novem­ber that fipronil had in­deed been used to clean chicken pens in or­der to com­bat red lice.

French Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Stephane Travert said he wanted “much more fruit­ful and rapid ex­changes of in­for­ma­tion” with his Euro­pean Union part­ners over the scan­dal.

His min­istry an­nounced at the same time an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the French egg in­dus­try to check for fipronil.

The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, which over­sees the 28-na­tion EU’s food safety alert sys­tem, re­fused to com­ment on if and when it was told about the re­ported Dutch find­ing.

The al­le­ga­tions that we knew about fipronil in eggs in Novem­ber 2016 are un­true.” NVWA, the Dutch food and goods watch­dog

The Bel­gian hear­ing was called in re­sponse to an ad­mis­sion by of­fi­cials at the weekend that they too knew about fipronil in eggs back in June, but kept it se­cret for nearly two months be­cause of a par­al­lel crim­i­nal fraud in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Wide­spread in Europe

The in­sec­ti­cide scan­dal only be­came pub­lic on Aug 1 when au­thor­i­ties in the Nether­lands or­dered eggs pulled from su­per­mar­ket shelves and urged shop­pers to throw any they had away.

Con­tam­i­nated eggs have since been dis­cov­ered in Ger­many, Bel­gium, Swe­den, Switzer­land, Bri­tain and France, with sev­eral su­per­mar­kets pulling mil­lions of eggs off the shelves.

Fipronil is com­monly used in vet­eri­nary prod­ucts to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks but it is banned by the EU from be­ing used to treat an­i­mals des­tined for hu­man con­sump­tion, such as chick­ens.

In large quan­ti­ties, the in­sec­ti­cide is con­sid­ered by the World Health Or­ga­ni­Za­tion to be “mod­er­ately haz­ardous” and can have dan­ger­ous ef­fects on peo­ple’s kid­neys, liver and thy­roid glands.

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