Nov '16 fipronil report had nothing to do with eggs: Dutch food auth.

Carton of eggs
Carton of eggs. Photo: Gisela Francisco / Wikimedia Commons

Dutch food and consumer product safety authority NVWA denies that it first learned that eggs were maybe contaminated by toxic fipronil in November last year. The authority did receive a report about fipronil in that month, but that report only stated that it had been used to clean stables - there was no reason to believe that it could end up in eggs and pose a potential health risk, inspector general Rob van Lint said on Wednesday, RTL Nieuws reports.

Earlier on Wednesday the Belgian Agriculture Minster caused an uproar by stating that the NVWA was . He learned this from documents the Belgian government received after asking the NVWA for information.

The document in question is a NVWA note to Public Health Minister Edith Schippers and State Secretary Martijn van Dam of Economic Affairs, dated July 22nd, according to newspaper AD. It states that the NVWA received the first fipronil tip in November 2016. A conversation took place which showed that there was no direct danger to public health, the environment or animal welfare. Therefore there was no need for immediate action. 

Dutch parliamentarians were caught completely off guard by this information. The letter from the cabinet informing the Tweede Kamer about the - written by Schippers and Van Dam on August 3rd - completely failed to mention this. That letter contains a timeline of events, starting only at the beginning of June 2017.

One of the main values on which Dutch politics function is that the the Tweede Kamer is kept fully informed on all issues. Parliamentarians are therefore shocked and furious about this new information. The VVD, CDA, D66 and ChristenUnie demanded immediate clarification from Schippers and Van Dam. "This is a serious matter, I am very concerned that communication is so poor", CDA MP Jaco Geurts said to AD.

Animal party PvdD even wanted the Tweede Kamer to return from summer recess so that this issue can be debated, but could not get enough support for that. "The government must always inform parliament fully and as soon as possible, so this is a political death sentence", parliamentarian Esther Ouwehand said to AD. She called it "a recipe for the resignation of the responsible minister". 

Over the past weeks the NVWA halted production at around 150 poultry farms because their stalls were cleaned with an insecticide containing the banned and toxic ingredient fipronil, which is used to fight ticks, fleas and lice. This measure was taken after it became clear that some eggs contain dangerous concentrations of fipronil. The World Health Organization considers fipronil to be "moderately toxic" to humans. In large amounts it can cause liver, kidney and thyroid gland damage.

The fipronil contamination was traced to Barneveld pest control company ChickFriend, which used the fipronil containing insecticide to treat chicken stables at a number of farms for blood lice. So far it seems that the poultry farmers in question had no idea about the contamination. Many of the affected farmers are now facing financial problems or even bankruptcy due to the scandal.

State Secretary Van Dam on Wednesday to discuss the economical consequences of the crisis. After the meeting he announced that the government and banks will do their best to help the farmers, according to RTL Nieuws. 

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