A court in Belgium has issued sentences to three local suspects in the fipronil egg contamination case.

Eurojust , the agency of the European Union dealing with judicial co-operation in criminal matters among member states, said it was pleased with the outcome.

The scandal dates to 2017 when eggs supplied from the Netherlands were found to contain the insecticide fipronil, leading to millions of eggs being recalled across a number of markets.

Fipronil is used in flea control products for pets and in cockroach traps. It is classified by the World Health Organization as a moderately hazardous pesticide.

In 2018, more than 70,000 potentially contaminated eggs were recalled in Germany amid concerns over the level of residue of fipronil found in them.

Investigators traced the supply of fipronil back to a company in Belgium called Agro Remijsen, run by Patrick Remijsen.

In April this year, two Dutch suspects were sentenced to one year in prison for the illegal sale of the potentially harmful insecticide fipronil to poultry farms.

A court in the Belgian city of Antwerp has sentenced Remijsen to three years in prison, with two of them suspended. His wife and the company’s main customer were both given 18-month suspended sentences. The three faced charges ranging from the illegal trade of the insecticide, criminal organisation, money laundering and forgery.

The court also awarded “millions of Euros” in damages to civil parties involved in the case, Eurojust said.

Investigations into the case started four years ago after hundreds of poultry farms had to be cleared, with livestock and millions of eggs being destroyed, leading to financial losses for farmers involved.

Eurojust said in a statement: “The Belgian and Dutch authorities identified a network of suspects illegally selling fipronil as a component of a pesticide to combat the growing problem of red mite on poultry farms. To hide the use of fipronil, fake labels were used, with the traders operating without a valid licence. Due to the initial success of the pesticide, hundreds of poultry farmers started using the product.”

Eurojust assisted in setting up and operating a joint investigation team between Belgium and the Netherlands, to support judicial action against the suspects.