EU calls eggs talks as scandal spreads to Asia (Update)

August 11, 2017

The EU on Friday called an emergency meeting to stop "blaming and shaming" over the insecticide-tainted eggs scandal as it emerged for the first time that the crisis had spread to Asia.

Hong Kong, Switzerland and 15 European Union countries have all received eggs contaminated with the chemical fipronil, which can harm human health, the European Commission said.

With concern going global, the commission said it had now called a meeting of ministers and food safety chiefs from affected EU countries, setting a provisional date of September 26.

"Blaming and shaming will bring us nowhere and I want to stop this," Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for health and food safety, told AFP as he announced the meeting.

Andriukaitis urged the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany—the countries at the epicentre of the crisis—to stop trading accusations about who is responsible for the scare.

Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers, speaking publicly about the matter for the first time, admitted late Thursday that errors had been made in the government's handling of the crisis.

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

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

'Not a crisis meeting'

Millions of eggs and egg-based products have been pulled from European supermarkets since August 1 and there are growing questions about who knew what, and when.

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 get "distance to the events".

Brussels said the 15 EU countries affected were Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Sweden, Britain, Austria, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Denmark, along with non-EU Switzerland.

But it also announced that Hong Kong had received some tainted eggs, with the southern Chinese city becoming the first place in Asia known to be affected.

Hong Kong reported finding eggs from The Netherlands contaminated with fipronil, the commission said, without giving further details.

The EU is seeking to quickly end the egg feud and maintain unity after a string of crises including Brexit, a migration influx and debt in the eurozone.

Belgium earlier this week accused the Netherlands of knowing about the fipronil eggs since November 2016 and failing to notify other countries, a charge the Dutch have denied.

However Belgium itself has been forced to admit that it knew about fipronil in eggs back in June but kept it secret for nearly two months because of a criminal investigation.

Dutch and Belgian investigators carried out coordinated raids on several premises on Thursday, arresting two people at a Dutch firm believed to be at the centre of the crisis.

"We need to work together to draw the necessary lessons and move forward instead of losing energy on finger pointing," commissioner Andriukaitis said.

Belgian Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme said in a statement he was "very interested" in having a meeting of ministers from countries affected by the fipronil scandal.

Fresh discoveries

Fresh discoveries of contaminated eggs have continued daily.

French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said that since April the country had sold nearly 250,000 contaminated eggs, imported from Belgium and the Netherlands, but the risk for consumers was "very low" given French eating habits.

Denmark said on Thursday it had found a haul of 20 tonnes of tainted eggs, imported from Belgium.

The scandal hit eastern Europe for the first time as a tonne of contaminated egg yolk was found in Romania, and 21 boxes of the tainted eggs were discovered in Slovakia.

It also reached Luxembourg, while Britain said it had imported 700,000 eggs from Dutch farms linked to the scandal—far more than the 21,000 first thought.

The food scare is one of the biggest to hit Europe since the 2013 horsemeat scandal when equine meat was falsely labelled and mis-sold.

Previous food scandals include contamination of chickens and eggs by dioxin in 1999, which began in Belgium, and mad-cow disease—cattle feed contaminated by the ground-up carcasses of animals infected with a deadly brain disorder—which ran from roughly 1986-1998 and started in Britain.

Explore further: 20 tonnes of contaminated eggs sold in Denmark: food authority

Related Stories

20 tonnes of contaminated eggs sold in Denmark: food authority

August 10, 2017
Twenty tonnes of fipronil-contaminated eggs have been sold in Denmark, the country's Veterinary and Food Administration said on Thursday.

Two arrested as Europe egg scandal spreads

August 10, 2017
Dutch investigators arrested two suspects Thursday over Europe's widening tainted egg scandal, as Denmark announced that 20 contaminated tonnes had been sold there.

What we know about Europe's tainted eggs scandal

August 8, 2017
Several European countries face a growing scare over millions of eggs that have been contaminated with the insecticide fipronil, which is potentially harmful to humans.

Luxembourg hit by tainted eggs scare

August 10, 2017
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 Thursday.

Belgium says Dutch found tainted eggs back in November

August 9, 2017
Dutch authorities knew as far back as November that some eggs in the country were contaminated with an insecticide and they failed to notify their European partners at the time, Belgium's agriculture minister said Wednesday.

Dutch arrest 2 suspects in investigation into tainted eggs

August 10, 2017
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.

Recommended for you

Mediterranean diet is linked to higher muscle mass, bone density after menopause

March 18, 2018
The heart-healthy Mediterranean diet also appears to be good for an older woman's bones and muscles, a new study of postmenopausal women in Brazil finds. The study results will be presented Monday at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine ...

Exposure to low levels of BPA during pregnancy can lead to altered brain development

March 17, 2018
New research in mice provides an explanation for how exposure to the widely used chemical bisphenol A (BPA) during pregnancy, even at levels lower than the regulated "safe" human exposure level, can lead to altered brain ...

Smoking linked with higher risk of type 2 diabetes

March 15, 2018
The prevalence of diabetes has increased almost 10-fold in China since the early 1980s, with one in 10 adults in China now affected by diabetes. Although adiposity is the major modifiable risk factor for diabetes, other research ...

Key drivers of high US healthcare spending identified

March 13, 2018
The major drivers of high healthcare costs in the U.S. appear to be higher prices for nearly everything—from physician and hospital services to diagnostic tests to pharmaceuticals—and administrative complexity.

Pedometer health boost lasts four years

March 13, 2018
Wearing a pedometer to count your daily steps can keep you healthier and more active for as long as four years after using it, a new study shows.

Toilet-to-tap: Gross to think about, but how does it taste?

March 13, 2018
Here's a blind test taste like Pepsi never imagined. Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, recently published a study of recycled wastewater that did not focus on its safety-which has long been established-but ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.