2 held in Dutch tainted eggs in­quiry

De­ten­tions stem from food safety scare over il­le­gal use of pes­ti­cide at poul­try farms.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD -

THE HAGUE — Dutch in­ves­ti­ga­tors on Thurs­day de­tained two men sus­pected of be­ing in­volved in the il­le­gal use of pes­ti­cide at poul­try farms that sparked a food safety scare in sev­eral Euro­pean coun­tries.

The de­ten­tions and a se­ries of co­or­di­nated raids in the Nether­lands and Bel­gium marked an­other es­ca­la­tion in a widen­ing scan­dal that has seen eggs tainted with the pes­ti­cide Fipronil stripped from shelves in coun­tries in­clud­ing the Nether­lands, Bel­gium and Ger­many.

Food safety au­thor­i­ties in other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Bri­tain, have re­ported dis­cov­er­ing eggs from farms where Fipronil was used or prod­ucts con­tain­ing eggs from those farms.

It’s be­lieved that the in­sec­ti­cide got into the food chain when it was il­le­gally added to a prod­uct used to treat poul­try for lice, fleas and ticks.

Though no one has been re­ported as fall­ing sick, pros­e­cu­tors said in a state­ment that there is ev­i­dence that pub­lic health has been threat­ened by “the delivery or ap­pli­ca­tion of the bio­cide Fipronil in poul­try houses in the egg sec­tor.”

The Dutch in­ves­ti­ga­tion, they said, is fo­cus­ing on a Dutch com­pany sus­pected of ap­ply­ing the Fipronil, the pre­sumed Bel­gian sup­plier and a Dutch trader who worked with the sup­plier.

Dutch farms pro­duce bil­lions of eggs each year, the ma­jor­ity for the ex­port mar­ket.

An es­ti­mated 5 bil­lion eggs are sold each year to Ger­many alone, ac­cord­ing to a poul­try farm­ing union in the Nether­lands.

Dozens of Dutch farms vis­ited by the com­pany sus­pected of us­ing Fipronil have been tem­po­rar­ily banned from sell­ing their eggs un­til the hens and their stalls are de­clared cleared of the pes­ti­cide.

Dur­ing Thurs­day’s raids, which were co­or­di­nated with the Euro­pean Union po­lice agency Europol, in­ves­ti­ga­tors seized doc­u­ments, bank ac­count de­tails and also au­to­mo­biles and real es­tate.

Crime “may not pay,” pros­e­cu­tors said.

Bri­tain’s Food Stan­dards Agency also said Thurs­day that the num­ber of eggs that reached the United Kingdom from farms im­pli­cated in the Fipronil scare is much higher than pre­vi­ously thought.

The agency said the num­ber is “closer to 700,000 than the 21,000 we pre­vi­ously be­lieved had been im­ported.”

It pub­lished a list of 11 re­called prod­ucts in which the eggs can be found, but played down the risks.

“While in some Euro­pean coun­tries eggs con­tain­ing Fipronil residues have been sold as fresh eggs, in the U.K. this is not the case,” the agency said in a state­ment. “Many of the eggs in­volved were mixed with other eggs which have not come from af­fected farms so Fipronil residues will be highly di­luted.” Ro­ma­nian au­thor­i­ties also said they seized a ton of im­ported eggs sus­pected of be­ing con­tam­i­nated.

The Vet­eri­nary Health Au­thor­ity said in a state­ment that 2,200 pounds of eggs were dis­cov­ered Wed­nes­day be­fore they reached su­per­mar­ket shelves. They had ar­rived in the western city of Timisoara from Ger­many. Au­thor­i­ties will in­cin­er­ate the eggs.

Philippe Huguen AFP/Getty Images

FRENCH au­thor­i­ties be­lieve Sovimo’s egg im­ports are among those af­fected in the pes­ti­cide scare.

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