Belgiums food safety agency heard of possible contamination in June

Belgium's food safety agency heard of possible contamination in June

Belgium's food safety agency has said it knew in June eggs from farms in the Netherlands might be contaminated with the insecticide fipronil.

A spokesperson for the AFSCA agency told a local broadcaster it did not disclose the information - which it discovered a month before the issue became public - due to a fraud investigation.

Belgium has opened a judicial investigation into the scandal, which is believed to have started in the Netherlands, a major egg exporter. Dutch poultry services company ChickFriend is said to have used the insecticide to rid farms of lice.

In a joint statement issued yesterday (6 August), Belgium's agriculture and health ministries said as soon as AFSCA became aware of 57 companies that may have dealt with ChickFriend the country's food safety agency blocked products.

Belgium said initial analysis on eggs produced in the country showed the produce "did not pose any danger to the health of the population".

In the Netherlands, around 180 cattle farms, rearing companies and hatcheries in the Netherlands that have done business with ChickFriend since the start of the year were temporarily closed down as local officials investigated possible contamination. On Thursday, the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs said eggs coded with 138 different codes were being investigated - and one presented "an acute danger to public health". A further 59 codes contained "increased fipronil content", which the ministry said the eggs could not be eaten by children.

Major grocers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have removed eggs from sale.

In the Netherlands, the country's biggest supermarket chain, the Ahold Delhaize-owned Albert Heijn is removing 14 types of eggs from its stores.

In Belgium, Delhaize said it had been asked by the country's food safety agency to remove one line of eggs due to the possibility the product "could contain an excessive concentration of fipronil", a spokesperson for the retailer said.

In Germany, Aldi announced it would, as a "precautionary measure", remove all eggs from its shops. Eggs can now only be delivered to the company if judged fipronil-free by an accredited laboratory.