EU companies that put foods containing egg or chicken contaminated with the insecticide fipronil on the market after 1 August 2017 will be considered liable as they should have known about the risk, the European Commission has said.

Member states were advised of the decision in the Commission’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (PAFF) (Novel Food and Toxicological Safety of the Food Chain Section).

“National authorities are leading criminal investigations in the countries concerned,” a Commission spokesperson confirmed to just-food today (15 September).

“The role of the European Commission is to coordinate and make sure that the EU legislation is being implemented.”

She added conclusions on the fipronil case, which will be made public, will be given at a high-level ministerial meeting on 26 September.

The scandal has shaken the Dutch eggs business, one of the largest in Europe. It focuses on accusations Dutch poultry services company ChickFriend used the insecticide to rid farms of red mites. Fipronil is banned in food-producing animals but authorised for fleas, ticks and worms in dogs and cats.

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At the meeting, Belgium said notification of a non-compliant fipronil result started the incident on 2 June 2016. But the member state did not use the EU’s rapid alert system (RASFF) to notify the rest of the EU until 20 July 2017.

The recently released summary report of the 30 August PAFF meeting in Brussels further stressed that under EU legislation, “the food business operator must ensure that the eggs/eggproducts/chicken meat used for the production of food is compliant with the EU MRL [maximum residue limit – 0.005 mg/kg] on fipronil” but “divergent approaches are applied by member states”.

And it noted the Commission said all farms where the suspected company operated must be identified and blocked until samples show compliance with the MRL. Eggs and chicken meat must be recalled from the consumer [retailer] if the MRL exceeds 0.72 mg/kg.

More than 40 countries have now identified fipronil-contaminated eggs or egg-based products.