Claims from Belgium the Netherlands knew about eggs contaminated with the toxic insecticide fipronil as early as last year are false, Dutch food safety officials have insisted.

The scandal has rocked the Dutch eggs business, one of the largest in Europe. It focuses on accusations, which emerged earlier this month, that Dutch poultry services company ChickFriend used fipronil to rid farms of lice.

Belgium’s Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme has reportedly claimed the NVWA had official documents indicating the presence of fipronil in Dutch eggs but had not notified the European Commission. Ducarme is said to have told Belgian politicians “there was concern over that lack of official communication from the Netherlands”.

However, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) has said it did not have prior knowledge. “The accusation that in November 2016 we would have known about fipronil in eggs is not correct,” NVWA inspector-general Rob van Lint said yesterday afternoon. “The NVWA receives hundreds of tips and reports of suspected fraud. One of these came in November as an anonymous signal on the illegal use of fipronil to clean stables to fight blood lice. At that time, there were no indications of acute food safety risks or that fipronil could also be found in eggs.”

These accusations follow claims on Tuesday from Germany’s Agriculture Minister, Christian Schmidt, that the contamination of millions of eggs with a potentially harmful insecticide was “criminal”. Schmidt, however, assured consumers there should not be any more contaminated eggs on sale in Germany.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the NVWA told just-food yesterday fipronil controls were being increased. He said chicken meat from companies with egg- and meat-producing chickens was now also being tested as “a precautionary measure”.

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By GlobalData

He said: “We need to make sure meat from these businesses do not contain fipronil, as we have indications that ChickFriend used fipronil in the stables of the egg-producing chickens. Most farms do either eggs or chicken [meat], but some, not more than 20, do both. The spokesperson added chickens from these few farms would only be released to slaughterhouses when proven fipronil-free.

The European Commission’s Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis tweeted yesterday he was “working closely together daily both on political & technical levels” with Belgian and German farm ministers plus Dutch Agriculture Minister Martijn van Dam on the egg scare.