Tests to see if official control laboratories across the European Union are able to find fipronil in eggs have shown the overwhelming majority of participants were able to do so.
The analysis follows the devastating contamination that took place in summer 2017 which led to the closure of many farms in the Low Countries and Germany.
The tests were ordered by the European Commission’s Directorate General Joint Research Centre, with support from the Health and Food Safety Directorate following a request by the Belgian authorities.
The proficiency testing round assessed the competence of European Union (EU) National Reference Laboratories (NRLs), EU Official Control Laboratories (OCLs) and OCLs from associated countries for the determination of fipronil in eggs.
Scientists were looking for the content of the target analytes (sum of fipronil plus its metabolite fipronil sulfone, expressed as fipronil in the PT test material, which was set around the EU’s regulated Maximum Residue Level (MRL).
A total of 86 NRLs and OCLs from 22 EU Member States plus Norway, Serbia and Albania took part in the tests.
The test items used were two materials made of frozen liquid eggs, processed and characterised at the JRC facilities in Geel, Belgium.
The results showed that the majority of participants (94%) were shown to have a satisfactory performance, demonstrating the analytical capability of most of the participating NRLs and OCLs to enforce the relevant EU regulations.
And a total of 93% of the participants who provided a compliance statement classified, correctly, one of the test items as non-compliant, according to the report published last week in the Food Additives and Contaminants Journal Part A.
Interest in food fraud in Europe has grown since the fipronil episode, and according to a recent report by the EU Food Fraud Network, there were 234 requests from member states for cooperation on fraud incidents last year, a rise of 30%.
Germany was the source of around a quarter of all requests (58), followed by France (32), Belgium (23) and Italy (11).
The report highlighted that the fipronil and horse meat in beef products cases had resulted in a situation where “competent authorities are losing credibility, companies are losing money and consumers are losing trust in food. It creates a major paradox: EU food is safer than ever to eat, yet consumer trust is low.”