Dutch food safety board shuts down 180 egg producers as pesticide scandal unfurls

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01 Aug 2017 --- The Dutch food and product safety board (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, or NVWA) has barred 180 poultry farms from sending their eggs to market because they may be contaminated with the pesticide fipronil. Additionally, the NVWA has warned consumers not to eat eggs with the code X-NL-40155XX, as these contain enough fipronil to present “an acute danger to public health.”

The pesticide is used to control lice and fleas in poultry. In the Netherlands, it is banned in the poultry sector. The NVWA has said in a statement that it is currently testing eggs, hens and chicken manure at several dozen farms for traces of the pesticide.

On its website, the NVWA states that although data on fipronil content in eggs, chicken and manure is still lacking, “the first results indicate that fipronil is still evident in eggs, months after it is administered.” The World Health Organization has classed the pesticide as “moderately hazardous.”

A press officer for the NVWA tells FoodIngredientsFirst: “The first batch of 80 farms were analyzed, and the results will come during the coming days. We hope to have examined all the eggs [sometime] this week.”

On 22 July, the NVWA shut down seven poultry farms after fipronil was found in samples of eggs. The decision to check Dutch poultry farms for fipronil was made following the discovery of the pesticide in the egg products at a poultry farm in Belgium. 

According to an article published today in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, a number of poultry farms affected by the scandal believe the contamination may have come from pest control company ChickFriend, which uses the pesticide to eliminate chicken lice. 

Asked about the possible source of the contamination, the NVWA press officer told FoodIngredientsFirst that the safety board is not able to provide any details, as it is a criminal investigation.

But the food safety crisis is bound to raise concerns about the possible export of eggs from the huge egg producing country, for use as an ingredient too. The NVWA spokesperson could not confirm that exported eggs could be affected, when asked, as it is the responsibility of the companies themselves to recall the eggs. “Not at this moment, obviously the companies have to trace the eggs and withdraw them, so if they exported the eggs they have to get them back. That’s how it works and how the law operates,” he concludes.

It was confirmed today that the issue is not solely affecting Dutch consumers, after the Ministry of Agriculture of North Rhine-Westphalia announced that it has recalled 875.000 Dutch eggs. A total of 2.9 million eggs from companies in which fipronil has been used were delivered in the German state, most of which were still in packing stations. 

According to the German Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR), the fipronil levels in these eggs are not high enough to pose a danger to public health.  

By Lucy Gunn

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