2 company executives have appeared in a Dutch court this week in connection with the tainted eggs scandal that has swept across Europe.
Contaminated produce has been found as far afield as Hong Kong and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The men, identified by Dutch media as 31-year-old Martin van de B and Mathijs Ij, appeared in closed session before a judge at the Overijissel District Court in Zwolle and were remanded in custody.
Police raid 8 premises
The men had been arrested last Thursday as agents raided 8 premises in Belgium and Holland, including the 2 men’s company Chickfriend in the Netherlands
The court said in a statement: “The public prosecution service suspects the 2 managers of a disinfection company of using fipronil at poultry farms in the Netherlands.
“Thereby, they endangered public health and there are suspicions they knew the biocide was banned,” it added.
Estimated costs to poultry farmers €150m
Poultry farmers caught up in the scandal, which has now affected 17 European nations and Hong Kong have begun counting the costs. Initial damages to poultry farmers were estimated to be €150m, according to Dutch sources but the figure may in the end be far higher.
Millions of eggs have been pulled from supermarket shelves and destroyed across Europe and dozens of poultry farms have been closed since the contamination was made public on 1 August.
Johan van Bosch, the secretary-general of the Belgian Association of Egg Wholesalers, said his members were tallying up their losses and were preparing to ask the European Commission for compensation for the fall in sales, rise in prices and fall in consumer confidence.
He admitted it was too early to know the full extent of the damage due in part to the market’s instability.
Too early to discuss how EU funds could help
The European Commission, which has set up a roundtable involving Government ministers and experts on the issue on 26 September, said it was too early to discuss how EU money could help producers in the egg industry.
“For the time being, this is a sanitary issue and it’s being addressed as such. We are not at the stage of discussions yet as we need to assess the full extent of the situation,” said a Commission spokesman.
Publishing of a contaminated product list
It is likely that a full list of products at risk of contamination will be published in the next few days. French Agriculture Minister Stephane Travert said he expected the list to contain some products that were still on sale but that the “health risk was very small.”
Meanwhile, samples from the carcases of egg-laying hens are being tested for fipronil over fears that spent hens sent from Belgium to its former colonies could be contaminated. Spent hens are frozen and shipped to Africa, in particular to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
As yet, there have been no reports of contaminated eggs in Africa, but Belgium does export up to 35m eggs a year to the Congo.