A meeting of European Union agriculture ministers in Estonia yesterday (5 September) to discuss the fipronil contaminated eggs crisis suggested the outbreak has now been mostly contained.

Following the meeting, EU Health and Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitas, said: “Today, I heard detailed explanations from the ministers; it is confirmed that all suspected farms have been blocked and contaminated eggs and egg products are being destroyed.”

He added: “The impact of the illegal use of this product {the insecticide fipronil} on laying hens has reached an EU-wide dimension with today hundreds of farms blocked for production, 26 Member States and 19 Third Countries involved.”

Andriukaitas conceded work still needs to be done.

Fact-finding missions to the most affected member states are scheduled in late September/early October and a ‘high level’ ministerial meeting is to be held in Brussels on 26 September.

“We’ll discuss how to strengthen the way the EU networks are dealing with food safety and food fraud function,” Andriukaitas said.

“I have invited the ministers to attend. This will be an opportunity to draw some conclusions that we will be then able to put forward to our next formal Council agenda.”

Eggs contaminated with fipronil have now been discovered in 40 countries.

The contamination has been traced back to a supplier of cleaning products in the Netherlands. Two Dutch men who ran the services company Chickfriend have been arrested.

Fipronil is widely used to treat pets for ticks and fleas but its use in the food chain is forbidden. It can cause organ damage in humans, if consumed in a large enough quantity.

The EU has launched an European Union-wide monitoring exercise investigating the possible use of illegal substances in egg products and egg producing farms.