The Dutch poultry industry has been left reeling by a food scare that has seen almost 200 farms locked down and millions of eggs recalled because of an illegal use of insecticide.
In an emerging crisis for producers, a treatment for red mite, a common pest on poultry farms, was found to be laced with powerful insecticide fipronil to enhance its effectiveness.
The treatment, named Dega-16, has been traced back to a Belgian pest-control firm named Poultry-Vision, which supplied the product to a cleaning company active on Dutch poultry farms. The point at which the product was contaminated is under investigation.
Some 180 farms served by that company have been placed under lock down until they have been fully tested for the illegal substance.
Treatment not licenced for use in food-producing animals
Fipronil is most commonly used to treat tics, mite and lice on companion animals, such as dogs or cats, and is not licenced for use in food-producing animals. It works by disrupting the nervous system of target species.
Dutch food safety authority, the NVWA, said one batch of eggs poses “an acute danger to public health”, while eggs from around 3 dozen farms have been recalled because fipronil levels pose a risk to children in the event of long-term consumption.
Results from remaining farms are expected within days, and until then no eggs, manure or hens can be moved. Farms found to be contaminated will have to use a specialist company to remove material.
Farmers seek government support
The Dutch poultry farmers caught up in the scandal have appealed for government support as they lose thousands of euros each day their eggs cannot be sold. ‘’We are the victim of an act of fraud outside our area of influence,” explained Eric Hubers of farmer organisation LTO.
“The damage became even larger when a spokesperson of the food authorities stated not to eat eggs at all anymore." This statement is retracted, but this doesn’t help the farmers much.
“Many of them face bankruptcy, an emergency fund is what would be needed now.”
Belgium and Germany respond to scandal
Germany’s largest supermarket group, REWE, has halted the sale of all Dutch eggs, instead opting for produce from German suppliers. Belgian stores have also recalled Dutch egg as investigations continue.
The Food Standards Agency in Britain says there is no evidence of egg or egg products being imported to the UK.
The Netherlands is Europe’s biggest exporter of eggs and egg products, with a national flock of more than 30 million birds.