Contaminated eggs scandal spreads from Europe to Asia

AFP, BRUSSELS

Sun, Aug 13, 2017 - Page 1

A scandal involving eggs contaminated with insecticide on Friday spread to 15 EU countries, Switzerland and as far away as Hong Kong as the European Commission called for a special meeting on the growing crisis.

Ministers and food safety chiefs are set to meet on Sept. 26 in a bid to get countries to stop “blaming and shaming” each other over the scare involving the chemical fipronil.

Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves across Europe and dozens of poultry farms closed since the discovery of fipronil, which can harm human health, was made public on Aug. 1.

The issue has sparked a row between Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, the three nations at the epicenter of the crisis, about how long they knew about the problem.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said that “this is not, let’s be clear, a crisis meeting” and it is being held next month to give “distance to the events.”

Fipronil is commonly used to rid animals of fleas, lice and ticks, but is banned by the EU from use in the food industry.

The EU insists there is no threat to human health, but the WHO says that when eaten in large quantities, it can harm people’s kidneys, liver and thyroid glands.

Hong Kong had received some tainted eggs from the Netherlands, with the territory becoming the first place in Asia known to be affected, Brussels said.

Hong Kong Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan (陳肇始) yesterday said authorities were “strengthening” inspections of eggs from Europe.

On Thursday, Dutch Minister of Health Edith Schippers admitted the government had made “errors,” but denied a cover-up.

A Dutch whistle-blower separately said he had told the authorities that Chickfriend, the Dutch company at the center of the scandal, was illegally using fipronil in the treatment of lice in chicken pens in the Netherlands.