Egg crisis: Fipronil traces found in eggs from 2016

Eggs being destroyed at a poultry farm in Onstwedde, the Netherlands, 03 August 2017. [PATRICK HUISMAN/EPA]

Belgian authorities have discovered a Fipronil-contaminated egg sample dating from September 2016, the head of the Belgian food security agency announced in parliament on Thursday (17 August). EURACTIV’s partner La Tribune reports.

The agency had analysed “historical” egg samples from a Belgian egg-processing plant, explained Herman Diricks, head of the agency.

Of 14 samples kept by the firm from September 2016, one had “residual traces of Fipronil,” he said.

The quantity of the toxic insecticide was lower than 0,005mg/kg, which is considered a residual quantity in European regulations, clarified the head of the federal agency for food security.

No quantity of this insecticide has been found in the egg samples dating from October to December 2016, also kept by the egg-processing plant, which had bought its eggs from numerous other countries.

Fipronil is “slightly toxic” when ingested in large quantities, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

A crisis in the making

Its presence in foodstuffs seems to have increased since January 2017.

“From January until May 2017 we have found Fipronil in 10 out of the 35 samples analysed. All the traces are below the threshold” considered safe by European regulation, Diricks said.

A health crisis mounted in the beginning of August due to the contamination of dozens of millions of eggs, coming from a disinfectant used on laying hens, which contained Fipronil – an antiparasitic treatment strictly forbidden in the food chain.

The crisis has spread to 18 European countries, but also as far as Hong Kong and Lebanon.

Belgian and Dutch enterprises are being investigated for having sold or used the incriminated disinfectant, called DEGA-16, as “natural” in poultry farms.

Contaminated eggs: Arrests made as scandal spreads East

Luxembourg became the latest European country hit by a scare over tainted eggs, with a major supermarket chain pulling them from the shelves and other firms affected, authorities said on Thursday (10 August).

The Belgian Agriculture Minister, Denis Ducarme, has reassured the public that the crisis was now under control in Belgium.

Excluding 21 structures still under scrutiny, “all the egg production chain has been tested as safe and free from Fipronil,” affirmed the minister.

“We are on our way out of the Fipronil crisis,” he added.

Dozens of millions of eggs coming from contaminated farms have been destroyed in Belgium and the Netherlands, where about 150 poultry farms have been blocked. The food industry was fearing an egg shortage as the price of eggs, fixed at an auction market in Belgium every Wednesday, has gone up by 2,5% this week, after a 6% hike last week.

Further Reading

Two in Dutch court over tainted eggs scandal

Two Dutch men appeared in court Tuesday (15 August) in connection with the tainted-eggs scandal that swept Europe this month, which saw millions of eggs destroyed and caused tens of millions of euros in damages.