Tuesday

19th Sep 2017

Egg scare prompts review of EU alert systems

  • Netherlands said to have known in November, but EU alert system not triggered until July (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The European Commission has called a “high-level” meeting on the egg health scare that has struck 15 EU states so far.

The health commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, is to discuss how to improve EU alert systems with health ministers and national food safety agencies in Brussels on 26 September.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Fipronil levels were up to 10 times over the limit, but did not pose a health hazard (Photo: Felicia)

A Commission spokeswoman said on Friday (11 August) that this was “not a crisis meeting”. She said the timing was designed to create “some distance” between the unfolding events and the EU reaction “to have as many facts established as possible”.

The Commission said it first learned that eggs sold by Dutch farmers contained Fipronil, an insecticide, when Belgium notified it and the other 27 member states using an EU alert system on 20 July.

Fipronil can harm people’s kidneys, liver, and thyroid glands if ingested in large quantities and is banned from the food chain under EU rules.

Levels in some eggs in Belgium were found to be 10 times above the EU limit.

The Commission said on Friday that it now knew of contaminated egg producers in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands.

It said contaminated eggs had been exported to Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK, as well as to non-EU state Switzerland and to Hong Kong.

The Danish and French authorities said contamination levels were too low to create a genuine health risk.

But a Commission spokesman added that “it is obvious that chicken meat from contaminated farms [also] has to be checked before it is placed on the EU market … this is what we understand these farmers are doing”.

The health scare has seen politicians trade accusations of who knew what, when.

It became public knowledge when Aldi, a German supermarket chain, pulled eggs from its shelves on 1 August.

Belgium has said the Commission knew about it before 20 July and did nothing, but the Commission denied that on Friday.

Belgium has also said the Netherlands knew about it last November and did nothing, prompting Dutch denials.

The Belgian authorities said they themselves knew in June, but kept quiet in order not to disturb a criminal investigation.

The Commission spokesman said on Friday that EU states must notify each other “immediately” if they detected a health risk.

“It’s a legal obligation”, he said.

“There are investigations ongoing precisely to establish when any single country knew [about the Fiprinol contamination] and should have notified [the EU],” he said.

Andriukaitis, the health commissioner, said on Friday: "Blaming and shaming will bring us nowhere and I want to stop this. We need to work together to draw the necessary lessons and move forward instead of losing energy on finger pointing."

The Netherlands, the EU’s biggest egg exporter, has blocked products from more than 180 farms, while Belgium has blocked more than 50 - a quarter of its national output.

The Commission said on Friday that it was too early to speak of EU-level compensation.

It also said it had seen no signs that the affair had had an impact on trade relations overseas.

Belgian prosecutors have alleged that a Belgian firm, Poultry Vision, sold toxic chemicals to a Dutch firm, Chickfriend, which sold the insecticide to chicken farms in order to kill red lice.

Analysis

Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue

Fico convinced the EU commission chief to take action in the perceived problem of discriminatory food practices, even though the evidence for the phenomenon is anecdotal.

MEPs call for Fukushima food data to be made public

A majority of the parliament's food safety committee adopted a text that warned of an increased risk of "radioactive contaminated food" from Japan, but one MEP said the text was full of "alternative facts".

MEPs call for Fukushima food data to be made public

A majority of the parliament's food safety committee adopted a text that warned of an increased risk of "radioactive contaminated food" from Japan, but one MEP said the text was full of "alternative facts".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  2. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  3. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  5. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  6. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  7. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  8. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel
  9. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Urges Bigger Global Role for Emerging Economies
  10. EU2017EEAre We Socially Insured in the Future of Work?
  11. European Jewish CongressFrench Authorities to Root Out "Societal Antisemitism" After Jewish Family Assaulted
  12. European Federation of Local Energy CompaniesClean Energy for All? On 10.10 Top-Level Speakers Present the Clean Energy Package