Ongoing investigations into the fipronil scandal that rocked Europe last summer led prosecutors this week to raid Belgium’s food safety agency.
Prosecutors said the current investigation concerned “the spreading of false information about the fipronil contamination in eggs in 2017.”
A spokeswoman for the food safety agency said it was fully cooperating with investigators but could not give any further details on what the investigation was covering.
Last summer, Germany authorities blamed their Belgian counterparts for not communicating sooner about a possible fipronil contamination. At the time, Belgium’s farm minister denied the accusations.
Fipronil is commonly used in pets for treating ticks and fleas but the insecticide is banned for use in the food chain.
However, doses were found in eggs across the Low Countries last summer, after it was discovered that Barneveld company ChickFriend used the substance to combat lice at dozens of Belgian and Dutch farms. It led to the destruction of millions of eggs and the closure of more than 100 poultry farms in several countries.
The case is still posing ongoing ramifications for farmers. Eggs from a chicken farm in Tilligte, Overijssel, Holland, was last week found to contain fipronil, which led to the destruction of 45,000 eggs and slaughter of 3,000 birds.
It is the second time in less than 9 months that the farmer has lost birds because of the insecticide, having been caught up in the original outbreak in mid-August.
He told the De Gelderlander newspaper that he had a strong suspicion that residues of fipronil remained in the soil of his pasture: “They peck at the soil and in this way the fipronil must have ended up in the stall and infected the eggs. I cannot think of anything else.”
Meanwhile, a report published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has said 8 countries were affected by the scandal. It said that a total of 5,439 samples were submitted to it between 1 September 2017 and November 30. Among these samples, 742 contained residues exceeding the legal limit.
“Maximum residue level exceedances were almost exclusively related to fipronil and were associated with unprocessed chicken eggs (601 samples), fat of laying hens (134 samples), muscle of laying hens (5 samples) as well as dried egg powder (2 samples),” said the report.
Samples that exceeded the legal limit were from the following countries:
• Netherlands – 664
• Italy – 40
• Germany – 13
• Poland – 11
• Hungary – 6
• France – 5
• Slovenia – 2
• Greece – 1
In its report, EFSA recommended that in future fipronil and other similar chemicals should be included in the monitoring activities of member states.