Brussels, Belgium. Sept. 27: According to the European Parliament, more than 20 EU member states have been affected by the Fipronil eggs contamination scandal so far as the European Commission and the European Union (EU) member states on Tuesday agreed to take concrete measures to prevent a food safety situation in it’s wake.
Millions of chicken eggs have already been withdrawn from the EU market, and all farms where products containing Fipronil could have been used have been blocked from placing their potentially tainted products on the market.
In a latest development regarding the scandal, further traces of Fipronil were found in tested egg samples from three Maltese farms earlier this month.
It was known in November 2016 that the problem existed in the Dutch company, Chickfriend, and the adequate measures were not taken. Moreover, the Belgian food safety agency discovered the contaminated eggs on June 2, but reported the issue to the EU as late as on July 20.
The incident has provoked concern in different sectors in Europe over the slow reaction of governments to the problem.
Members of the European Parliament criticized national authorities for delays in notifying the EU’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) during a debate about the Fipronil eggs contamination on Aug. 31.
Some MEPs even said there were needs for fines for member states that failed to share crucial food safety information and truly dissuasive sanctions for fraudulent producers or suppliers of pest-control products.
The scandal sowed worry about the capacity of the EU authorities and governments to deal with such public health situation. Are there loopholes in any part of the food supply chain? How to ensure one incident that may pose risk to public health in one EU member state won’t spread to other member states? These are among the questions to be answered.
The European Commission in a statement said as many as 19 measures regarding food fraud were agreed during the meeting.
These measures allow member states to exchange views and manage the Fipronil contamination of eggs and egg products with the coordinating efforts of the Commission, said the statement.
Greater importance are attached to the lessons learnt from this incident, especially on how to prevent and detect such incidents and improve the handling of similar crises in the future, said the statement.
Meanwhile, the agreed measures also highlight the use of the RASFF, which remains the primary responsibility of the member states in order to maximize its potentials.
The RASFF, created in 1979, enables information to be shared between its members (EU-28 national food safety authorities, Commission, EFSA, ESA, Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Switzerland).
Photo: Fipronil, a popular pesticide
Fipronil is a popular pesticide, often used to de-flea household pets such as dogs and cats. It is also effective at treating red lice, which are commonly found in poultry.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says fipronil is “moderately toxic” to people if it is eaten in large quantities, and can have dangerous effects on the kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.
It can also cause “nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and epileptic seizures,” says the Dutch food standards agency NVWA, although its effects are reversible.
The contamination which the European Parliament say affects more than 20 EU member states, was first discovered on Dutch poultry farms. It is thought that Fipronil was used in chicken farms to combat lice, affecting the eggs of laying hens.