Dutch egg probe widens to test­ing chicken meat

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

THE HAGUE: In a new twist in Europe’s tainted egg scan­dal yes­ter­day, Dutch au­thor­i­ties an­nounced 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,” Tjitte Mas­ten­broek, spokesman for food se­cu­rity agency NVWA, told AFP. 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 across Europe.

Hard-hit Ger­many yes­ter­day 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 or­gan­ised as a net­work it’s un­ac­cept­able,” Ger­man Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Chris­tian Sch­midt said. He again crit­i­cized Bel­gian and Dutch au­thor­i­ties’ tardy re­sponse to the cri­sis.

Bel­gium’s top agri­cul­tural of­fi­cial 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 told AFP 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. Mean­while, the French gov­ern­ment said Mon­day “thir­teen batches of con­tam­i­nated eggs from The Nether­lands” were de­liv­ered in July to food pro­cess­ing com­pa­nies lo­cated in cen­tral-western France.

First egg, now chicken

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. How­ever, if fipronil was de­tected “farm­ing will be com­pletely sus­pended,” Mas­ten­broek said.

Poul­try heart­land hit

The con­tam­i­nated egg scan­dal broke last week when up to 180 Dutch farms were shut­tered due to the pres­ence of fipronil dis­cov­ered in some of the eggs. It is be­lieved the toxic sub­stance was in­tro­duced to poul­try farms by a Dutch busi­ness named Chick­friend brought in to treat red lice, a par­a­site in chick­ens. Dutch and Bel­gian me­dia re­ports that the sub­stance con­tain­ing the in­sec­ti­cide was sup­plied to Chick­friend a small com­pany oper­at­ing out of the Dutch poul­try heart­land in the cen­tral town of Barn­eveld - by a Bel­gian firm have not been con­firmed.

Cur­rently Dutch au­thor­i­ties have closed down 138 poul­try farms - about a fifth of those across the coun­try - and warned that eggs from an­other 59 farms con­tained enough lev­els of fipronil that they should not be eaten by chil­dren. Bel­gium has blocked pro­duc­tion from 51 farms - a quar­ter of those na­tion­wide - with fipronil found at 21 farms, although lev­els were ten times be­low the max­i­mum EU limit, the coun­try’s food and safety author­ity AFSCA said. Other Euro­pean coun­tries like Aus­tria, Bul­garia, Poland, Por­tu­gal and Ro­ma­nia said they were an­a­lyz­ing im­ported eggs, but so far no con­tam­i­nated eggs were found. — AFP

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